Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Coffee Thoughts, August 29

First off, you might have noticed that the guy in the picture next to this blog has gone from a very thin, graying man beaten down by life, to a fat, less-graying man beaten down by life. This is because the former beaten-down man, Ryan Lawrence, has taken his talents to Miami -- actually, no, LeBron is on his own. Ryan has gone to the Philadelphia Daily News, which according to the roll of newsprint sitting on my stoop is still publishing.

As for his chunkier replacement, you might remember me -- Dennis Deitch, in case you missed the few mentions of my name on this Web page -- as "that guy who covered the Phillies from 2000-07, then got off the beat just in time for the greatest four-year run in franchise history." Or, you might remember me as the donkey in St. Madeline's first-grade production of the Christmas story. Either way -- greetings!

Let's get this blog party started.

I figured I would start a little exercise that has me roll out of bed, drag my dutiful dog Buster with me for some coffee, and give some thoughts on what went down with the Phils the night before.

Mets 9, Phillies 5

Let's just say the team was very kind to make my first game back on the beat a very fine example of what 2012 has been for the Fightins. The Phils got a 4-1 lead on a Ryan Howard grand slam in the bottom of the first, then had that lead erode as the bullpen was asked to do too much, as in "hold a lead." It totally went to pot when BJ Rosenberg was bombed in the 10th.

But the real focus of the night was the continued souring of Vance Worley's season. After giving the Phillies a tremendous lift as a rookie when he took over for an injured Joe Blanton, then following it with a terrific first half this year for an otherwise disappointing team, Worley has started hitting the second-year blues in a bad way -- 2-4, 5.33 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break, including a whopping .340 opponents' batting average.

On the surface, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Almost every pitcher who has early success in his big-league career gets a challenge somewhere around his second or third season (feel free to check out Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels' career numbers for evidence).

What has made Worley's struggles a bit more complex are the loose bodies floating in his elbow. They required a DL stint in May, and it's human nature to wonder if this bone chips -- which will be flushed out with arthroscopic surgery after the season -- are partially to blame.

Worley, however, adamantly says they aren't, and he might well be right. But it has reached the point in this season and in his struggles for the Phillies to sit him down and say, "Look, we aren't saying this is the problem, but we have a starting pitcher (Tyler Cloyd) we need to see in order to gauge if he's big-league material. Trying to make adjustments and get through this rut while at the same time knowing you have a 'scope on the calendar isn't productive. Get the elbow cleaned, come to spring training ready and you're a part of our rotation come April."

Worley has shown the organization that he wants to pitch. He has shown that he has the capability to be a solid starter for a long time, and there's no reason to think this is anything but a typical stage a young pitcher goes through. Now it's the organization's turn to make the decision for Worley. He isn't going to raise the white flag on himself.

Let the kid clear his elbow of those loose bodies and his mind of the consequences of his struggles.

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