Jayson Stark is a hot commodity these days, and there’s good reason. The ESPN senior baseball writer knows his world champions, as he wrote about the Phillies as the Inquirer’s Phils beat writer. These days he’s at the Worldwide Leader, penning regular columns and blog entries, showing up on “Baseball Tonight” and providing us with the wacky rumblings, grumblings and useless information only he can provide. Stark truly is in a class all his own.
Luckily, he’s our kind of class. We talked with Stark about the 2009 Phillies, including potential injuries, the bullpen and Jimmy Rollins’ upcoming season, among many other topics. Stark is also the author of the 2008 Phils retrospective, “Worth the Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies.” We’ll get to that in part two. But order “Worth the Wait” at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. It’s certainly worth the read.
Here’s part one of our interview with Jayson:
I’ve read you’re not as keen on the Phillies in 2009 because of potential injuries. Who exactly might find DL time?
The biggest issue for any team that plays that extra month is the health of its pitching staff. Just seems like those pitchers never stay as healthy as they did the year before.
So I’d say Cole Hamels is probably the guy to keep your eye on, after a jump of nearly 80 innings last year – especially because he’s already gotten a shot in his elbow.
Which Phillie pitcher has the best chance of posting the most obscure (bad) line of the week?
Hmmmm. You never know. But how ’bout Clay Condrey? I’d vote him the pitcher most likely to be asked to Take One For The Team. And that’s usually what it takes.
Do you feel the troika of Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre and Chad Durbin can hold the fort as well as 2008, at least until JC Romero returns?
Can they? Absolutely. Is it likely? I’m not even sure the guys who run this team would say that. How many relievers in the whole sport stay consistent from year to year? Twelve? Maybe 20?
Madson and Durbin in particular had big “break-throughs.” You never know if the light bulb went on or it was just one of those years. I didn’t see anything this spring that would lead me to believe they’ll take huge steps back. But will you get the feeling the game’s over every time this team turns it over to the bullpen the way you did last October? I wouldn’t go that far.
Finish this sentence: Ryan Howard’s final batting average will be …
Does Jimmy Rollins approach those 2007 numbers again, or will he continue his transformation into a more on-base-minded hitter?
He’s never going to be a base-on-balls machine. But you’re definitely seeing the transformation of this guy as a hitter. The quality of his at-bats in the WBC was unbelievable. What you’re seeing is a player with a clear picture now of what pitches he can handle. So he now takes pitches and works counts to get those pitches. I think he’ll have a huge year.
If (when) Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez or Shane Victorino sits out with a DL stint, John Mayberry Jr. is surely waiting for a platoon role. Is he a potential starter or just a hack-a-plenty athletic type?
He’s a guy with eye-popping tools, and he’d certainly be the guy they’d turn to. But I’m not convinced yet that he’s going to be an everyday player. As the spring wore on and he saw fewer fastballs, there was a lot more swinging and missing. I’d rather have him in my system than Greg Golson. But the jury’s still out.
Should the Phillies find themselves immersed in a playoff race come trade deadline time, which Phils are most likely to be leaving town?
Depends. How big are their needs going to be? Are they going to be desperate enough to trade one of those big prospects of theirs? I see no chance that Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald or Lou Marson would get dealt, or even Dominic Brown or Michael Taylor. But there’s a lot of interest in the catcher behind Marson, Travis D’Arnaud. So you’ll hear that name, I bet.
Most likely name on the big-league roster to get traded? Depending on how this staff shakes out and how Carrasco develops, how ’bout Brett Myers? He’s a free agent next winter, right?
Check back at 2 p.m. for part two of the Jayson Stark Interview, including who Stark thinks which Phillie could have a big year, why Chase Utley is Hank Aaron’s favorite player and why Jayson chose to write “Worth the Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies.”