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In and Out with the Phillies

March 28, 2009

by Christine Cartafalsa

Chris Coste can finally breathe a sigh of relief today. He may have played it cool while his spot on the Phillies roster was up in the air, but the fan-favorite surely had to have a few sleepless nights here and there, wondering if he would be returning to the minor leagues or become nothing more than a mere bat off the bench.

The Phillies have traded Ronnie Paulino to the Giants who then traded him to the Marlins for a prospect. In return, the Giants signed over left-handed reliever Jack Taschner who will most likely fill the void left by J.C. Romero in the bullpen.

Coming over from Pittsburgh in a December trade for prospect Jason Jaramillo, Paulino was considered to be a possibility for the backup catcher spot behind Carlos Ruiz. A fog of determination issues haunted him, but Charlie Manuel didn't notice that during training. What was noticed was Paulino's less than spectacular batting performance. Currently, he sports only a 1.94 average, going 6 for 31 at bats. His time in the batters' box may be sprinkled with a couple of doubles and a home run, but it just wasn't enough to please the powers that be. For a team that boasted one of the lowest batting averages of 2008 (23rd overall), Paulino proved that he was not going to be the spark in getting that fire going for this season.

As Paulino cleans out his locker, the Phillies make room for newly acquired Jack Taschner who has not had a great spring with the Giants nor a great 2008, finishing last season with a 4.88 ERA. Taschner has a 6.23 ERA in 8 2/3 inning of work thus far. A spring training ERA doesn't forecast a pitcher's true value as this is the time for them to try new pitches or work things out with the old. Still, Taschner's lifetime ERA of 5.01 does speak volumes. Even more interesting is that he has a better average against right-handed batters than lefties (.247 vs. .288) which makes his use somewhat questionable.

So just how necessary was another face for the bullpen who may or may not be helpful against left-handed batters? This deal may mean good news for rotation contender J.A. Happ who could possibly interpret this deal as a nod for the fifth starter's spot. It may be bad news for other bullpen auditionees, Gary Majewski and Mike Koplove. Both have been fantastic this spring (3.27 in 11 innings and 1.23 in 7 1/3 inning respectively), but the arrival of Taschner, should he fill a spot in the bullpen, might just close the door on the two young pitching hopefuls.

If a pitcher's past was the only prerequisite to becoming a member of the Phillies roster, Scott Eyre would not be part of it. Released by the Cubs in August of 2008, Eyre came over the Phillies with a 7.15 ERA to rolling eyes and raised eyebrows from fans. He would erase any inkling of doubt by finishing his first season in Philadelphia with an unforeseen ERA of 1.88. However, Eyre, a 12-year veteran, did bring a more consistent resume with him, only finishing a season with an ERA above 4.00 three times since 2001. Taschner's career low of 1.59 came in 2005 and was followed by a career high of 8.38 in 2006 when he gave up 18 earned runs in 19.1 innings. 2007 and 2008 would see more innings pitched, but more runs surrended as well.

More likely than not, Taschner will remain with the Phillies until Romero's suspension is lifted, though Ruben Amaro, Jr. is not opposed to having three lefties in the bullpen, finding promise in Taschner's "history of having some success".

For a team that likes to pick from its own garden, this trade does not seem promising enough to bloom.

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