PHILLIES: Bullpen Starting to Shape Up

First of all, sorry for the lack of posts recently. In addition to it being the off-season, I have also been having some difficulty adjusting to life in Spain, partially due to the time difference and lack of sleep that coincides with studying abroad.

Ten days removed from stepping into Barcelona, things are finally starting to become as normal as living in a new city and a foreign country can be, so I hope to getting back to a regular posting routine.

Now that I got that out of the way, onto the meaningful stuff.

In addition to the the signing of Danys Baez, the Phillies have finalized the contracts of three more pitchers in the past two weeks who will undoubtably be part of the overly complicated pitching staff equation once the season starts in April.

Chad Durbin: I didn’t say that the contracts were for new players. Durbin, who has been a focal point of the Phillies middle relief since the 2008 season, signed two days after filing for arbitration last week. The deal, which will pay Durbin a little over 2 million dollars in 2010, brings a sense of familiarity to a Phillies bullpen that is going through one heck of a makeover. As it appears now, Durbin and Ryan Madson will most likely be the only remaining relievers from the beginning of the 2009 season to be on the Phillies 2010 Opening Day roster (J.C Romero and Brad Lidge will most likely start the season on the DL as they recover from off-season surgery). The Phillies made some good signings which will obviously talked about, but bringing back Durbin was just something they had to do.

A return to where it once started for Brandon Duckworth

Brandon Duckworth: Does the name sound familiar? Well, it should. Duckworth was a fan favorite in Philadelphia as he started his major league career in the City of Brotherly Love, playing for the Phillies from 2001-2003. After his stint in Philly, Duckworth has spent time in Houston and Kansas City over the past five season as both a starter and a reliever. For the Phillies though, Duckworth will most likely vie for a spot in the bullpen, as his addition (along with the next player I’m going to talk about)  will give Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee a plethora of hard-throwing righties to choose from in late game situations. Not a bad luxury to have. However, if Brad Lidge somehow makes it back for the start of the regular season, Duckworth’s fans may have to travel up the PA Turnpike about an hour to see him play at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Jose Contreras: Wow, can’t say I was expecting this. To be completely honest, I’ve never personally been a fan of Contreras since he was just another highly coveted prospect from Cuba that Yankees overpaid for at the beginning of the century. With that said, after acknowledging the way Contreras pitched against the Phillies in during the 2009 NLDS when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies, it’s easy to see that this signing makes a lot of sense for the Phillies, as he will fill the same role as Chan Ho Park did in 2009.

What is that role exactly?

Well, since Contreras’s track record shows success as starting pitcher (went 15-7 with the White Sox in 2005),  I do think that the Phillies will give him an opportunity to battle it out for the last spot in the starting rotation. However, I think the odds are towards Kyle Kendrick (or even Pedro Martinez) getting that opportunity when it is all said and done, as his pitching performance at Lehigh Valley and down the stretch with Philadelphia last season should give him one more shot as a starter for the Phillies. However, if that doesn’t work out, which based on Kendrick’s track record, may happen, Contreras’s versatility gives the Phillies a nice security blanket to go back on if Kendrick’s third stint as a starter does not work out, and they don’t feel comfortable with their options inside their minor league system.

To put this into perspective, I believe both Kendrick and Contreras will make the opening day roster in some capacity.  If it happens the way I think it will (Kendrick as a starter, Lidge out for the first month of the season), then Contreras will start the season as the Phillies main long-relief man just as Park did in the latter part of the 2009 season, as he will sit behind Baez as the new set-up man and Madson as the closer, a role that he both succeeded and failed in during spot duty last season.

Less, than a month until pitchers and catchers report, and I am about to fill out a form to renew my MLBTV subscription.

Good day to all.


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January 2010
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