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Ethan Martin Should Be Starting Over Roy Halladay


Ideally, Halladay shouldn’t be bumping any young starters out of the rotation. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Let me state for the record that I love Roy Halladay.

Much of what you are about to read is going to sound like I’m trying to destroy Halladay’s legacy. Trust me, I’m not. But as we turn our attention to the future of the Phillies, and focus on the years 2014 and beyond, we must make decisions and look for things that are going to help this team in the long term.

Which is why it would be a shame if Ethan Martin or Jonathan Pettibone is bumped from the starting rotation for a returning Roy Halladay.

Last night, Martin made progress once again. This time he lasted 6 1/3 innings, his longest start of the season. In those first six innings, he was terrific, giving up just two singles with no earned runs, striking out six with no walks. He had lasted five innings in each of his previous two starts, in which he gave up three earned runs in Atlanta and one earned run to Chicago.

Of course, Martin’s first start was a disaster, giving up six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Braves.

In his four big league starts this year, some trends have become apparent regarding Martin…

Clearly, Martin is at his best early in the game when his stuff is strongest. His control is much better and teams have a much harder time hitting his stuff. It’s why most people think Martin’s future is in the bullpen, first as a set-up man and then as a potential closer.

Aug 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Ethan Martin (49) delivers to the plate during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Rockies 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It’s certainly hard to argue with that. All signs point to it.

But as the Phillies prepare for Roy Halladay’s second rehab start today for the Lakewood BlueClaws, and the potential return of their former ace right-hander, it appears as though Martin’s days in the Phils’ rotation may be coming to an end.

Jonathan Pettibone is also nearing a return. If Pettibone and Halladay both come back to the rotation, that would give the Phils a starting quintet of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Halladay and Pettibone. And unless they’re going to go to a six-man rotation, that either means Martin gets sent to the minors to continue work as a starter or gets sent to the bullpen.

In the best interests of the Phils’ future, I would really rather see Martin continue to make regular starts with the Phillies rather than watch Halladay try to be 20% of the pitcher he used to be.

Don’t get me wrong, watching the old Halladay pitch was one of the greatest privileges we’ve ever experienced as Phils fans. Even though the last two years has basically been $40 million in sunk costs, the first two years of Roy Halladay was so overwhelmingly awesome that it totally dwarfs any of the negatives of the past two years.

But it’s hard to imagine that, at 36 years old and coming off shoulder surgery, the Halladay we would see return to the team would be a whole lot different than the one who struggled so mightily the last two years.

To think that we’re going to see a Halladay that is worthy of being even a #3 starter is wishful thinking. And really, if the whole point of these last 40+ games is to get a good look at these younger players, what good does giving Halladay starts that could go to a young guy like Martin do?

Is Martin a future stud starter for this team? Probably not. His future probably is in the bullpen. But the rest of this year is about finding these types of things out for sure. We don’t know what Martin can become, but we’re pretty sure what Halladay is.

Halladay is unlikely to be a part of this team long-term. So the only reason to jam him back into the rotation is both for nostalgia and because they’re paying him $20 million.

Of course, if Halladay is healthy, and he says he’s ready, the Phillies HAVE to start him. I understand that. Halladay is a huge part of this team’s recent history, and there is a chance that he could return to something close to his old form. And if he does, it’s very possible the Phils and Halladay could agree to a contract that would keep him in Philly for 2014, hopefully at a reasonable cost. At the very least, the Phillies probably feel they owe it to Halladay to let him pitch in the Majors at least to audition for other teams.

My argument is one that imagines we live in an ideal world and really, if we lived in an ideal world, Halladay would have never gotten hurt in the first place and the Phils would be 10 games up in the NL East right now.

But at the end of the day, the Phils are likely sacrificing starts to a young pitcher with questionable potential to a veteran whose potential has long passed.

I guess the truth is that I’ve already said my goodbyes to Roy Halladay. In my mind, I’ve closed the book on the Halladay era. It was sad and depressing to watch him struggle so much before the surgery, and it’s hard to imagine that a 36-year-old coming off shoulder surgery is going to be a whole lot different.

As the Phils look to the future, they have to balance their past commitments.

Hopefully it won’t come at the expense of the team trying to determine the future of a young pitcher.