Phils' maligned bullpen holds up in one-run W
The Phillies had a one-run lead in the top of the seventh inning when Charlie Manuel went to get Vance Worley. Worley had pitched well for much of Tuesday’s game at Citizens Bank Park, but he struggled in that inning, allowing a run and leaving two Pirates in scoring position with no outs before heading to the dugout.
And so another game was handed over to the bullpen. Michael Schwimer came in first. He got one out right away by making a nice play on a grounder hit sharply back to the mound. The next batter, Neil Walker, flew out to left field – at which point John Mayberry promptly threw out Michael McKenry when the Pirates catcher tried to tag up and score from third. Inning over. Threat squashed.
It was an impressive performance considering that the Phillies bullpen entered the game allowing 39.2 percent of inherited runners to score, the second worst rate in the majors.
From there, Antonio Bastardo pitched a scoreless eighth inning -- despite allowing Andrew McCutchen to start things off by crushing a double off the left field wall -- and Jonathan Papelbon got the save in the ninth, though he made it interesting by surrendering a solo home run to McKenry.
Phillies 5, Pirates 4.
On the whole, it was a good night for the Phillies' 'pen in a season that has not produced many positive outings. The bullpen entered Tuesday’s game with a .257 batting average against (22nd in MLB), a 4.48 ERA (24th) and a bloated .418 opponents' slugging percentage (third worst in the league).
Several of the relievers the Phillies planned on having in the bullpen this year haven’t been around. Jose Contreras, David Herndon and Mike Stutes have all suffered serious injuries. Justin De Fratus hurt his elbow early in spring training and has been rehabbing ever since.
In their places, and with the exception of Papelbon, the Phils have been forced to go with a host of pitchers who are either inexperienced or questionable or both.
“Our bullpen is a concern to me mostly because we’re young and inconsistent,” Manuel said. “We have the talent, but we’re kind of developing the talent to be big leaguers right now. The command, the location, locating their pitches consistently and how they pitch, that’s going to take them a while. It’s a different feeling pitching in the big leagues. Just because you pitched in Minnesota or Baltimore, now you’re in Philly. The players hear things and they see things. They read. They watch TV. But also they look up and see people in the third deck and they hear the roar and all that. It’s an adjustment. Getting used to it, that’s all part of it.”
The Phillies have four relievers who are 26 or younger: Schwimer (4.80 ERA, 1.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio), Bastardo (3.75, 2.62), Jake Diekman (3.86 ERA, 2.10) and Joe Savery (4.43, 2.60). Then there’s 33-year-old Chad Qualls (3.86, 2.38), who has pitched more innings than any of the others. Manuel said part of the issue with his bullpen has been the inability to determine clear roles for his relievers from evening to evening.
“The problem we’ve had so far, it’s hard to organize our bullpen,” Manuel said. “We put someone in, and then we have to go get him. Then you put someone else in, and then the next night you have to use someone in a role that you haven’t used him in before. It’s been hard to organize our pen and get it flowing, getting it on a roll and getting it where we want to go.”E-mail John Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org