For the first time in several weeks, the Darwin Finches are not in first place in the Eastern Division. A hot streak by Frostbite Falls against Central Division clubs (winning eight straight) and some failures by Darwin's bullpen has allowed the Finches division rivals to first catch, and then surpass them.
As a result, Darwin GM Scott Hatfield is concerned, and for the first time in months, may be actively pursuing help on the trade market.
"Basically, our concern is still the effect that our starters are having on our bullpen," Hatfield admitted. "We have trouble getting our veteran starters to go deep in the ballgame, and we've tried to get our youngsters to go long, it just doesn't seem to be happening. Zack (Grienke) is in his first year as a full-time starter, and he's tired. Kazmir, we all know, had an injury this spring and we don't want to push him too hard, or we may lose him again. Chad's pitched pretty good for us of late, and it seems like that since he didn't start early in the season, that he's fresher now. But he still goes deep in the count to most hitters, and is around 100 pitches usually in the fifth. So, while I wouldn't say any of my guys are pitching badly, those four guys are basically five-inning pitchers at this point in the season, and the relievers are getting worn out."
An agitated Hatfield began ticking off his options. "A couple of times earlier this season, we had Tim Wakefield make a spot start, and just leave him and his knuckleball in there most of the night. He's always been very durable, versatile, a good team player. But he's in his forties now, and even knuckleballers can be overworked. He's showing signs of it. So I don't think much of that option."
"Or," Hatfield continued, "we could try putting some youngters in the rotation. Kershaw won a game in relief for us last week, and he has certainly earned an opportunity to start. Sanchez has shown some flashes But, like Kazmir, like Chad, these guys are young and they will go pretty deep in the count. So I'm not sure what that would get us."
"Another possibility," Hatfield sighed, "would be to increase the overall size of the pitching staff. Call up Max Scherzer, who is probably ready to contribute. Give Cla Meredith another shot at sticking on the roster. Just inflate the pitching staff, so there are lots of arms and I don't overwork the pen! But, to do that, I'd have to move some regular players down, and barring a trade, one of them would certainly be Josh Hamilton, and I don't have to tell you the excitement he's brought to our ball club since joining it. Hamilton's got options. Jeff Francouer, Rick Ankiel, they don't. So I would definitely have to weaken the lineup and the bench a bit in order to add some pitching depth."
"Finally," Hatfield concluded, "There is the trade market. I've been very reluctant to go there, because whether or not you improve that way is a bit of a crap shoot, especially when you're dealing with pitchers. Clearly, I would love to have a right-hander in their prime who could give us a complete game now and then, and maybe help us match up better with Frostbite Falls as the season goes on. But who's out there? Gil Meche? Brett Myers? Jon Garland? I'm not sure that the arms that I might be able to get would be enough of an upgrade to justify sitting one of my present starters."
"So," concluded the Darwin GM, "I continue to weigh my options. The trading deadline is September 14th, so if we're going to do anything, it will have to be soon."