Bullpen Picture Becomes Clearer

Thumbnail image for bastardo.jpgThe Phillies still have time to finalize their bullpen, but the picture got clearer today.

They optioned left-hander Sergio Escalona to the Minor Leagues, which leaves just eight healthy relief pitchers in big-league camp for the seven-man bullpen: right-handers Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin, David Herndon, Ryan Madson and Ehren Wasserman, and left-handers Antonio Bastardo and Mike Zagurski.

Closer Brad Lidge and left-hander J.C. Romero are expected to open the season on the disabled list. They would not be eligible to pitch until April 10 in Houston.

Baez, Contreras, Durbin and Madson are locks to make the bullpen. Bastardo and Herndon, a Rule 5 Draft pick, seem to have the inside track for two spots. Bastardo would give the Phillies at least one left-hander while Romero recovers from offseason elbow surgery. Herndon has allowed just one hit in five scoreless innings in four Grapefruit League appearances. The Phillies need to keep Herndon on the 25-man roster or offer him back to the Angels. That gives them incentive to keep him.

If Bastardo and Herndon take two vacancies the pitcher who loses the competition for the fifth starter’s job – left-hander Jamie Moyer or right-hander Kyle Kendrick - is a smart bet to take the third.

Both Moyer and Kendrick pitched effectively in the bullpen last season. The Phillies have said Kendrick must beat out Moyer for the job, and so far he has pitched well. He allowed two runs in five innings tonight against the Orioles, and has a 1.29 ERA in four spring appearances. But will it be enough to supplant Moyer, who has 258 career wins and an $8 million salary? Moyer makes his first Grapefruit League appearance Sunday against the Orioles.

One scenario has Moyer opening the season in the rotation and Kendrick opening the season in the bullpen. If Moyer pitches well he remains the starter. If he does not, Kendrick and Moyer flip roles like Chan Ho Park and J.A. Happ did last season.

Of course, Zagurski and Wasserman both remain in camp and Charlie Manuel said today that if a player is in camp he remains a candidate for a job. But the Phillies have said a few times this spring that Zagurski, who missed the entire 2008 season recovering from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, needs more innings. Zagurski has thrown two scoreless innings in one Grapefruit League appearance. Wasserman, who is 2-3 with a 5.07 ERA in 57 appearances in his Major League career, has allowed just two hits in four scoreless innings in three Grapefruit League appearances, including a scoreless inning tonight.

The Phillies have scheduled neither Zagurski nor Wasserman to appear in a game through March 27. They are listed as backups, meaning they would pitch only if a pitcher gets knocked out of a game early or a game extends into extra innings.

Could there be help coming from the outside? Left-handers Joe Beimel, Ron Mahay and Alan Embree remain unsigned. Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently they are not actively pursuing any bullpen help outside the organization. Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said today that holds true.

“I would say at this particular point we’re comfortable with what we have in camp,” Proefrock said. “We’re keeping our eyes open, but we’re not actively pursuing. People are calling us more than we’re calling them.”

Consider also that any free agent pitcher the Phillies sign would not be ready to open the season. Lidge said Thursday he hopes to be back by the Houston series. Romero said he is shooting for the April 12-15 series against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies seem to feel they only need short-term solutions, not long-term solutions like signing a free agent.

Bastardo, Herndon, Zagurski, Wasserman or whomever could get the Phillies through a week or two without Lidge and Romero. Proefrock also pointed out that if Lidge and Romero open the season on the DL, they still have Escalona and others like right-hander Scott Mathieson at their disposal.

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1 Comment

I’m trying to figure out how the Phils will be able to keep Herndon after Romero and Lidge return to action. With the starting 8 regulars, 5 starters and 5-man bench, that leaves a 7-man bullpen. Madson, Baez, Contreras, Durbin, Romero, Lidge and Herndon amounts to 7 guys. Then we have to consider the “loser” in the 5th starter’s battle. If Moyer wins the battle, the Phils will have to option Kendrick down in order to keep Herndon on the 25-man roster at that point. On the other hand, if Kendrick becomes the 5th starter, the only ways to keep Herndon would be to (10 relaease Moyer or (2) trade for Herndon’s rights. It’ll be interesting to see how everything falls out.

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