After A.J. Burnett threw his 119th and final pitch Saturday night against the Braves, a familiar question popped into many fan’s minds as the Phillies pitcher who leads the league in tattoos and the team in walks issued this season, strolled to the dugout.
Is that the last pitch Burnett will throw in red and white pinstripes? The same question applies to Kyle Kendrick. Will Jerome Williams, who has been solid during a brief run, return? Will David Buchanan have to impress during spring training to earn a slot in 2015 despite an impressive rookie campaign? Expect considerable turnover in the rotation next season
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Ace Cole Hamels, coming off the best season of his career while pitching for the worst Phillies team during his tenure, is a lock, barring injury, to start the 2015 season opener against the Boston Red Sox.
However, the questions start with Burnett, who has a player option to come back for $12.75 million.
Burnett, who lost 18 games, the most by a Phillies starter since Steve Carlton suffered through 20 defeats in 1973, was thinking about retirement after leaving Pittsburgh following the 2013 playoffs. Will Burnett call it a career or will the money prompt a final season?
“Money ain’t everything,” Burnett said. “Money is money.”
Burnett, who has earned more than $130 million during his respectable career, as well as two World Series rings, doesn’t need the cash or more hardware. His wife and children, his two young sons are often playing in the Phillies clubhouse, could be enough for him to retire.
“I have a lot going on outside of the game,” Burnett said. “The game has been great to me.”
Burnett has pitched with a hernia all season. He’s going to have hernia surgery a week after the season ends.
“I’m healthy enough to compete,” Burnett said. “What it comes down to is if I have the drive to compete.”
Kendrick who emerged from obscurity in 2007, is an innings eater. He ate up 199 frames this season but he’s been maddeningly inconsistent. Despite that, expect Kendrick to receive a raise. Odds are the Phillies won’t offer him a new deal at $8 or $10 million per season but expect a pitching desperate team to reward Kendrick for his durability.
Williams and Buchanan will probably be in the mix for a slot in the rotation since there are four positions available.
“I really like it here,” Williams said. “I love the guys on this team and I’m enjoying pitching in this park and in the National League.”
Williams is a competitor, who is a cerebral hurler. The humorous, laidback hurler, has also injected a lightheartedness in the clubhouse.
“I like to have fun,” Williams said. “It’s part of the game. You need to be loose in this game to do well.”
Ruben Amaro or a new general manager will have considerable work to do during the offseason.
“This is a very different situation than it was from 2008 to 2011,” a NL scout said about the Phillies. “Back then you added pieces but this is a club that needs so much work. It’s obviously beyond tweaking. It’s going to be a challenge. Who knows what the Phillies will do next year?”