Saturday, January 28, 2006

Arthur Rhodes
Arthur Rhodes replaces Madson
as the set-up man in the bullpen.

On Friday, January 27, 2006, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cleveland Indians completed a long-awaited deal that sent reserve outfielder Jason Michaels to the Tribe in return for experienced left-hander Arthur Rhodes.

Rhodes, whose career began in 1991, turned 36 last October, and will join an already aged Philadelphia bullpen. Recently acquired closer Tom Gordon is 38 years of age, and lefty specialist Rheal Cormier will turn 39 in April. Rhodes will assume the set-up duties for the Phillies, handling the eighth inning before handing the ball to Gordon in the ninth.

Sitting out most of the final two months with knee problems, Rhodes was 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 47 games with the Indians last season.

This new acquisition means that Ryan Madson, the set-up man for the Phillies until they acquired Ugueth Urbina last May, will move into the back of the starting rotation. As he progressed through the Minor Leagues, he was always a starter and feels most comfortable in that role.

Ryan Madson
Ryan Madson will take over the #5 spot
in the Philadelphia starting rotation.

With AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2003, Madson was 12-8 with a 3.50 ERA in his final year as a starter.

"I've always liked Madson in the rotation," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I've always wanted to start him, if possible. I like him pitching every fifth day, and feel he'll be able to get the most out of his pitches. I want to be able to tell him before Spring Training, maybe January, so he can be prepared in his thinking and know what his role is going to be."

Madson, when asked if he would be more comfortable as a set-up man or as a starting pitcher, answered, “Starting, for sure, because that's what I came up through the Minors doing. But wherever help is needed, I will be more than happy to do it.”

Although the rumors have swirled, the Phillies have had a relatively quiet offseason. The Michaels-Rhodes swap marks the first deal the Phillies have made since signing free agent right-hander Ryan Franklin, formerly of the Seattle Mariners. Franklin was suspended for ten games last season for testing positive for banned substances, and finished the season with a disappointing 8-15 record and a 5.10 ERA.

As a result of trading Michaels, the Phillies now lack a right-handed bat off the bench aside from backup catcher Sal Fasano. Rumors indicate the Phillies have expressed interest in free agent and Cooperstown-bound catcher Mike Piazza. Piazza would likely platoon with 2005 Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard at first-base, and pinch-hit late in ballgames, rather than catch. Should Piazza join the team, the Phillies would have to carry three catchers on their roster, which is typically frowned upon.

Mike Lieberthal, entering his thirteenth year in Philadelphia – the longest tenured athlete in the City of Brotherly Love – remains the starting catcher although this is likely his last year as a Phillie.