March 31, 2005

Howard to begin season in Triple-A

The big story in Berks was that Ryan Howard was sent back to Triple-A yesterday. Phillies beat writer Phil Gianficaro had the story this morning for the Reading Eagle. (Photo: Reading Eagle)

BPF take
The disappointment is understandable as many fans here in Reading are anxious to see how his phenominal minor-league power translates to the majors. The 25-year-old hit 46 home runs between Reading and Scranton last season, and only got a taste of the major league pitching late in the year.

"Yes, it's disappointing," Howard said in Gianficaro's article. "But I'm realistic about it."

Howard certainly represents a dynamic presence. When he steps to the plate, there's general sense something good will happen. Manager Charlie Manuel described Howard as "a major-league hitter."

Nevertheless, the decision to start him in Triple-A is a sensible one, though not as rational as trading him for pitching would have been. Jim Thome is the team’s first baseman and an excellent one at that. At Scranton, Howard can play every day and stay warm in case he’s called up. One likely scenario has Howard getting called back in May for interleague play. A number of top hitting prospects around the league, including Andy Marte of Atlanta, could also follow this scenario.

No matter where his career leads him, fans in this area will always track Howard a little more after his remarkable season in Baseballtown.

Telly out, Liriano in
The biggest race of spring between 31-year-old Amary Telemaco and 24-year-old Pedro Liriano went to Liriano yesterday as Telly was released. Randy Miller at had that story.

BPF take
Looking at the stats, they both had pretty good springs aside from the games I saw. Overall, they both got a lot of looks this spring: Liriaro is 0-1 with a 3.07 ERA in 14 2/3 innings, and Telemaco had a 3.52 ERA over 10 appearances.

One upside to Liriano is, of course, he's seven years younger that Telemaco. Liriano had a 4.02 ERA in 11 appearances last year with Milwaukee, but didn't start in any of those. He was claimed off waivers in December.

Pedro Liriano

I've only seen him once this spring, but he looks like a wicked little right-hander. He was tough on righties last season - they hit .206 off him.

The big knock on Telly is his tendency to give up the long ball, a big no-no especially with 81 games at Citizen's Bank Park. Still, the Phils are giving up a pitcher that can provide a spot start or two, and that's important with a rotation as thin and unhealthy as theirs. Perhaps they envision Liriano as a potential 6th or 7th starter, but for now, he's long relief "B" after Ryan Madson.

Other roster moves:
The Phillies narrowed their roster to 26 yesterday, including these noteworthy moves:

- Rule 5 outfielder Shane Victorino was placed on waivers
BPF: Lost the battle early to Marlon Byrd, had an unimpressive spring. No surprise here. Phils would like him back for Scranton if no other team wants him. My take ... sure. Why not? If anyone cares to contribute to the Victorino conversation, feel free. Anybody? Oh.

- Re-assigned OF Mark Budzinski and C A.J. Hinch to minor league camp
BPF: Rumors of a catchers duel between Hinch and Pratt proven totally bogus.

- (And this one happened March 17): Optioned LHP Eude Brito, RHP Edwin Moreno, RHP Franklin Perez, RHP Robinson Tejada and C Carlos Ruiz to minor league camp
BPF: Todd Pratt era ends next season, junior pudge era begins, baby.

Viva Ruiz!


At 2:45 PM, Anonymous enrico said...

How long do you let Howard's talent go to "waste" in triple A?

It just seems like a tough spot for him to be in with Thome blocking his progression.

I guess we can hope for him to do something special in interleague play, but then what?

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

"Then what" is absolutely right, Enrico.

Thome will be a Phillie until 2008 and his progress, for now, is blocked. The smartest play would have been to trade him this winter.

I can sympathize with Howard's desire to live the dream, instead of sleepwalk through the AAA circuit. It's simple really: Weekends in Miami, or weekends in Pawtucket. Plus, there's nothing else for him to learn in the minors.

On the plus side, Thome is still an injury risk at his age, so Howard is excellent insurance.

But the Phillies believe, and I agree, that keeping 12 pitchers will help their chances of winning more than having Howard around for the occasional pinch hit.

So the "then what," if he does indeed come back for interleague, will depend on a couple of things: injuries, and whether the Phils deal away a player like Placido Polanco.

Either way, he's not going to get a healthy amount of playing time as long as big Jim is ready to go.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Tom G said...

Jayson Stark speculates that Polanco and Howard are being held for July trades, which isn't a bad idea, they will be worth more then.

But I would worry that Wade would simply give them up for someone David Weathers-ish...


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