Mar 4, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Mike Adams throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the bottom of the fourth inning of a spring training game at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
No matter what happens for the rest of the spring, everyone can rest easy in the knowledge that Chad Qualls is nowhere to be found anywhere near the Phillies bullpen.
I know, it’s a new year and we should probably all get over the nightmare that was Chad Qualls in 2012, but somethings are just hard to put behind you. Watching a gawd-awful relief pitcher burn through one eighth inning lead after another will lead to some scars and the occasional night terror.
So there is that bit of good news as the Phils try to figure out who will man the ‘pen when the team breaks for Philadelphia at the end of the month. And at the midway point of spring training, it’s still unclear who is going to be on the roster when the Phillies open their season in Atlanta on April 1.
Four of the spots in the bullpen are set. Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams and Chad Durbin are, barring injury, assured a spot in the ‘pen. And the Phils typically like to use seven relievers, which would mean there are three spots available for a slew of young arms that hold a ton of potential.
The youngster with perhaps the best chance of making the team is Phillippe Aumont, whose stuff may just be too dynamic to leave off the roster. Aumont is currently playing in the WBC for Team Canada, but in two innings with the Phils, the young right-hander with the blazing fastball and knee-buckling curve has not given up a run while striking out two. Aumont looks like a real good bet to make the team.
Aumont’s departure for the WBC opens up some innings for other young relievers to make their mark although, so far, no one has really taken advantage of it.
There’s a strong possibility the Phils will want a second left-hander out of the ‘pen, which means Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman or Raul Valdes could all get a long look. Based on spring numbers, Diekman would appear to be the leading candidate to make the team. He’s thrown six innings and has given up two earned runs with 10 strikeouts and just two walks for an ERA of 3.00. Horst has also pitched six innings but has given up eight earned runs with four strikeouts and three walks for an ERA of 12.00. And Valdes has pitched 7 1/3 innings and given up six earned runs with an impressive 11 strikeouts and just one walk for an ERA of 7.36.
Based on those numbers, Diekman has the edge (although Valdes’ K/BB split is pretty impressive in this small sample size). However, Horst’s success with the Phils last year (31 1/3 IP, 5 ER, 9K/6BB, 1.15 ERA) will certainly factor into the decision making of Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee. Given Horst’s success last year, he’s probably in the lead for the moment.
The final spot is the most intriguing. Do the Phils put another young power arm in the ‘pen or do they use that spot for a veteran long man? Justin De Fratus and Michael Stutes are two young arms with potential, however, neither has performed well this spring (7.50 ERA for De Fratus, 6.75 ERA for Stutes). They would be the most likely candidates to make it onto the roster should the Phils decide they need another strikeout arm in the bullpen.
And while the Phils probably would like for Cook to stay in AAA and give the Phils a back-up starter should one of the starting five get hurt, he may be the best bet to grab that final spot in the ‘pen.
Of course, April offers more off days than just about any other month during the season, so the Phillies may decide they don’t need a long reliever early in the season and give one of those spots to a more dynamic arm.
*My bullpen picks: Papelbon, Adams, Bastardo, Durbin, Aumont, Horst, Cook*