FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak twice made a point last week to say the club had no plans to sign another pitcher before Opening Day.Klentak first made the comment Tuesday, when the team held an introductory news conference for Jacob Arrieta. Klentak repeated himself Friday, when
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak twice made a point last week to say the club had no plans to sign another pitcher before Opening Day.
Klentak first made the comment Tuesday, when the team held an introductory news conference for Jacob Arrieta. Klentak repeated himself Friday, when the Phillies revealed Jerad Eickhoff would miss six to eight weeks because of an injured lat.
But the speculation lingers, particularly as the team reported after Monday's 6-5 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park that Mark Leiter flew back to Philadelphia to have his right arm examined. Leiter experienced "soreness" in his forearm in his last start Friday. Leiter had pitched well this spring, striking out 17 and walking three in 12 1/3 innings. He stood an excellent chance of making the team, either as a starter or as a reliever.
Free agent Alex Cobb remains on the market. Lance Lynn recently signed a one-year, $12 million contract with the Twins. It seems Cobb will not get the multiyear deal he wants, so the Phillies could sign Cobb to a lucrative one-year deal. Arrieta, Aaron Nola and Cobb would form an impressive trio atop the rotation, but it also would prevent the Phillies from getting a look at the young pitchers on their 40-man roster.
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The Phillies need to learn more about the young guys.
The Phillies' five-man rotation, if everybody is healthy, is Arrieta, Nola, Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta. Eickhoff's lengthy absence provides an opportunity for Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Andrew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman to make the rotation. Leiter could be out of the mix, at least to start the season.
Jake Thompson seems to be moving into a relief role.
"All of them have shown well and it's nice to have a lot of options heading into the season," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said.
The Phillies will need one of them if Arrieta is not ready to pitch the first week of the season. If Arrieta is ready -- he is starting Thursday's game against the Tigers in Clearwater, Fla. -- the Phillies will not need a fifth starter until April 11 against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park.
Here is a look at those candidates with Opening Day just 10 days away:
Lively has struck out nine and walked two in 14 innings. He has a 3.86 ERA (six earned runs allowed). Other pitchers have better stuff, but the Phillies love his competitiveness.
Hutchison allowed three hits, one run and one walk while striking out three in five innings Monday. He has a 3.45 ERA (six earned runs in 15 2/3 innings) this spring. The 27-year-old could step into Leiter's role as a swingman.
"We're very confident in his ability to take a position like that down should we need him," Kapler said.
Hutchison can opt out of his contract if he is not placed on the roster by Friday. He declined to say if he would accept a Triple-A assignment, saying he is focused only on pitching.
"In my position, you take every opportunity you have," he said. "You do everything you can with it. If you don't have any opportunities, you try to force some for yourself by the way you pitch. That's what I'm trying to do right now and I feel like I've thrown the ball well this camp."
The 23-year-old has a 4.73 ERA (seven earned runs in 13 1/3 innings) in four appearances. He has struck out 11 and walked two. Eflin arguably has the most upside in this group.
"Eflin has shown the ability to go through a lineup a couple of times and maintain his stuff," Kapler said.
Thompson, 24, has a 1.74 ERA (two earned runs in 10 1/3 innings) in six appearances. He has struck out eight and walked three. He could pitch in that swingman role, potentially still making a spot start.
"He's shown the ability to have a swing-and-miss slider and throw it out of the zone and get swings and misses, which is a quality we think plays well in a Major League bullpen," Kapler said.
Eshelman, 23, allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings Monday, including four in the ninth. He had allowed just one run in his first eight innings this spring. He is not on the 40-man roster and can be optioned to Triple-A.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.