The Philadelphia Phillies are expected to once again have two of the best pitchers in baseball anchoring their rotation. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are as good as any No. 1 and No. 2 combination in the majors. Throw in A.J. Burnett, and the Phillies have a significant strength, at least at the top.
But behind those three there's a little less certainty. And one recent development in spring training suggests there could be an emerging problem for the Phils.
Starter Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is not off to a great start at Phillies camp in Clearwater, Fla, according to several reports. Judging by CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury's account, the early returns on Gonzalez do not sound good.
Manager Ryne Sandberg told Salisbury this on Friday:
“Um, well, he’s a guy that’s coming back from injury and hasn’t pitched competitively really for a couple of years,” Sandberg said. “I know that we’re using a lot of patience with him… He’s still a little bit of a mystery to me."
If that quote makes it seem like Sandberg isn't impressed, well, Salisbury thinks the same. Here are his thoughts on the pitcher:
"Clearly, Sandberg has not been blown away by Gonzalez. No one in camp has. Gonzalez’s stuff doesn’t jump out at you. His control has been spotty.
Though Gonzalez is a candidate for a spot in the season-opening starting rotation, it’s getting more and more difficult to see that happening."
The Phillies signed Gonzalez, a native of Cuba, last June to a three-year deal worth $12 million. The hope was to have him as a third or fourth starter for the next few years. Right now that plan is not looking good.
This is of course on top of the shoulder tendinitis that Hamels has been dealing with. He is hoping to return by the end of April, which will leave a hole in the Phillies' rotation for at least a few weeks.
It's still early in 2014 spring training, but the Phillies are off to a troubling start.