February 25, 2013; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Despite Jonathan Papelbon‘s ridiculously poor outing and the Phils’ 10-1 loss to the Tigers in their third spring training game of 2013 (dropping them to 0-2-1), there continues to be good news coming out of Clearwater.
Ryan Howard is off to a hot start this spring, collecting another two hits and sacrifice fly on Monday (all off left-handed pitchers, by the way), and Tyler Cloyd pitched two innings of hitless ball in relief of Phils’ starter Cliff Lee.
Lee pitched two scoreless innings against Detroit yesterday, giving up no hits and one walk with two strikeouts. It took Lee just 15 pitches to work his two innings.
He was quick, efficient, and didn’t mess around.
You know, like Cliff Lee is gonna do, y’all.
Lee’s two-inning performance followed a one-run, two-inning start by Halladay, in which his velocity appeared to be on pace with where he normally is for this time of year, and a two-inning shutout outing by Hamels in the spring opener.
So far, the Phils’ three aces are not messing around.
Granted, it’s still early and the three pitchers have combined to hurl only six innings so far, so there’s a bit of work left to be done. But as everyone knows, the Phillies will only go as far as their starting pitching, and more specifically, their top three, will take them.
There are concerns at the bottom of the rotation to be sure. Kyle Kendrick is coming off a season that saw a higher K-rate and lower walk-rate than any other in his career. As the #4 starter, he’s being counted on to reproduce numbers he’s never sustained before.
John Lannan has the chance to be a nice surprise in the #5 spot, and could very well see himself move up in the rotation if Kendrick falters. However, Lannan’s effectiveness comes when he’s getting ground-ball outs, and that may not be too easy given the Phils’ infield defense at the corners.
Kendrick will toe the rubber on Tuesday for the Phils against the Yankees at Bright House Field in Clearwater. He’ll get the same two innings that Halladay, Lee and Hamels got. And the pressure is certainly on for him to not stink on ice.
Moving forward, the Phils are just hoping Hamels and Lee don’t hurt themselves. There is very little else to worry about with those two.
More closely scrutinized will be Halladay’s starts. How is his velocity? Is there late movement on his fastball? Is he able to control his repertoire? Are hitters hitting him harder the second and third time through the lineup?
None of those questions can be answered after just one, two-inning start.
Still, the Big Three are off and running.
And that is very good news for a Phillies team that needs them to be great.