Amidst the numerous inconsistencies of this Phillies team that make you want to throw your memorabilia cup at the TV, none has been worse than the bullpen. Sure, Cole Hamels starting 1-9 might be more perplexing. An injured Chase Utley is frustrating, if not expected. Yet the bullpen has been the hardest to watch in large part because the Phillies told us they had it fixed!
Let’s begin this tour of agony with Ruben’s prized free agent acquisition Mike Adams. Adams started the year off strong, and looked to finally be the answer to the ever troublesome eighth inning. Adam’s slider has been his out pitch when things are working well, but a troublesome back has turned him into another overpriced reliever. After spending two weeks on the DL with the injury Adams hasn’t been sharp. His ERA has risen to 3.57, but what’s worse are his walks per 9 that stands at 4.6. Adams has made up for the high walk rate with an equally high strikeouts per 9, but walks and long balls won’t make his overall numbers any better. It may be a little soon to call Adams a bust, as he works his way back from his back troubles, but 6 million dollars should buy some consistent dominance.
The bullpen was supposedly built to withstand a few bruises and bumps with all of their young talent piping in from Lehigh Valley. So far that depth has been non-existent.
Antonio Bastardo has been shaky at best. Dominant one minute, the next he can barely hold a late lead against a lowly Brewers team. Bastardo’s entire career as seen its share of inconsistency, so it’s no shock when he can’t find the plate. When his slider is working he can be one of the best lefty options in the NL, but without that he looks more like Mike Zagurski.
Bastardo, Adams, and Papelbon were the known quantities heading into the season. The youngsters were the wild card for Ruben, proving to be just that in the early going.
Phillipe Aumont has pitched his way back to the minors, and now seems to have completely forgotten how to throw strikes. The potential is still there for him to become a reliable arm, but Philadelphia is no place for him to work out his issues.
With Aumont out of the short term picture, the rest of the bullpen duties have fallen on the rest of the unproven young core of arms. Michael Stutes, Justin De Fratus, and Joe Savery have all been up and down in their brief careers, but are trying to finally stick with the big club.
Stutes has come back from major surgery, and has been effective in limited action. He was a key part of the pen two years ago, so there’s at least a track record to hang your hat on.
De Fratus, Savery, and the rest of the kids haven’t done enough to show they belong just yet. The team’s collective ERA ranks 13/15 in the NL, which has been largely a product of a shaky pen. The main culprits (Valdes, Durbin, Aumont) have been demoted or released, but it won’t get any better if their replacements aren’t up to the task.
The rough start has only fed my pessimism about this bunch, but there is a lesson I learend from Dom Brown’s new found success. Despite the potential, no one saw this kind of hot streak out of Brown. He’s crushing everything thrown his way and is finally showing fans why Ruben refused to put this guy in deals. I”m not saying that Michael Stutes or Joe Savery will turn into Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters (pre-surgery) but with a little patience they can be good enough to turn a bad bullpen into an average-good one. If they can do that, the payoff may be just as great as Brown’s power streak.