Phillies Notes: Manuel looks for a righthanded bat, Amaro wants a reliever

Posted: June 24, 2011

ST. LOUIS - It didn't come as a surprise to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. when manager Charlie Manuel publicly declared Wednesday that he could use a righthanded bat for the middle of his lineup.

"Charlie is welcome to say whatever he wants and whatever he feels," Amaro said by phone from his office at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday. "I don't disagree with him. I think it would help balance the lineup."

Manuel and Amaro do, however, differ slightly about what is needed most for the Phillies to make a serious run at their second World Series title in four seasons.

"I don't think it's absolutely necessary that we get a righthanded bat in order to win the World Series," Amaro said. "To me, I'm more concerned about our pitching than our offense."

Amaro, of course, always has placed a heavy emphasis on pitching, and that remains even though the team's 2.98 ERA going into Thursday night's game at St. Louis was the best in baseball. The GM said his concern right now is in the bullpen, which took a hit when Jose Contreras was placed on the disabled list for the second time this season with an elbow injury.

"I'm always concerned about our bullpen," Amaro said. "We have some young kids throwing in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, and it's hard to rely on them on a daily basis. They've never been through it in September, and they've never been through it in October, and now Contreras is down, and we don't have [Brad] Lidge back."

The two young kids Amaro referred to are 24-year-old Michael Stutes and 25-year-old Antonio Bastardo, both of whom have been outstanding out of the bullpen for the Phillies this season. Workload is a valid concern. Bastardo threw a total of 39 innings in his first full season as a reliever last year, and he already had 28 innings through 75 games this year.

Stutes, on the other hand, covered 76 1/3 innings in his first full season as a reliever last year and is only at 22 2/3 innings right now. It's clear that Manuel will continue to lean on the two rookies because of how impressive they've been. Bastardo went into Thursday's game with a 3-0 record, two saves, and a 0.96 ERA, while Stutes was 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA.

Veteran Juan Perez, 32, was added to the bullpen to replace Contreras. Perez was 0-3 with four saves and a 3.52 ERA at triple-A Lehigh Valley this season. He had two previous big-league stints with Pittsburgh, the last one in 2007.

"We've been getting good reports on him," Manuel said. "He has a good arm. I think he'll be in the sixth or seventh inning against lefties, and that will give us a chance to look at him."

Perez pitch a shaky but scoreless seventh inning during the Phillies' lopsided loss to the Cardinals Thursday. He issued two walks, but escaped unharmed when he struck out Skip Schumaker.

Despite having better overall numbers at triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he has been the team's primary closer this season, lefthander Mike Zagurski had not been as effective as Perez at getting out lefthanded hitters.

Through Wednesday, lefthanders in the International League were hitting .261 against Zagurski and only .184 against Perez. The biggest concern with Perez has been his command. He has walked 21 batters in 30 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 41, and he had walked just one batter in his last five appearances.

 Amaro said Perez's fastball has been clocked as fast as 95 m.p.h.

Phanatic is phine

Tom Burgoyne, the mild-mannered man behind that furry green costume who entertains fans as the Phillie Phanatic, was fine Thursday after being hit just above the eye by a foul ball during Wednesday's Lehigh Valley IronPigs game.

The ball appeared to hit the Phanatic in the neck, but that is where Burgoyne's face is inside the costume. Burgoyne had a small bump and mild concussion, but he told a Phillies spokesman that he'll be ready for work - or is it play? - when the Phillies open a homestand Friday against the Oakland Athletics.

Extra bases

Manuel rested Raul Ibanez in favor of Ben Francisco for a second consecutive game Thursday but indicated that the regular leftfielder would be back in the lineup against the A's on Friday. Ibanez struck out in a seventh-inning pinch-hit appearance. . . . Catcher Brian Schneider was scheduled to catch nine innings at double-A Reading on Thursday, and if all went well, he likely would be activated from the disabled list Friday. . . . The Phillies will mark the 40th anniversary of Philadelphia International Records and Black Music Month with a free concert before Friday's game outside Citizens Bank Park. Chubby Checker and others will be honored inside the park before the game.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

 

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