Looking at the Phillies' bullpen

Jose Contreras is coming off an elbow injury.
Jose Contreras is coming off an elbow injury. (YONG KIM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 16, 2012

WHAT WE KNOW: Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee will have plenty more options than they did for most of last season, when young relievers Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes were forced into the fire after injuries struck Jose Contreras, Brad Lidge and, for a stretch, Ryan Madson. The ninth inning wasn't a problem last year, and it shouldn't be one this year with Jonathan Papelbon replacing Madson. The 31-year-old former Red Sox closer relies primarily on a wicked fastball, occasionally offset by a splitter.

WHAT TO WATCH: All eyes will be on veteran Jose Contreras throughout the spring as he attempts to rebound from elbow surgery that sidelined him for the final 5 months of last season. Contreras has a 3.44 ERA with 8.9 strikeouts-per-nine and 3.1 walks-per-nine in 70 2/3 innings since joining the Phillies in 2010. But he turned 40 in December and is attempting to rebound from a significant injury.

OTHER ISSUES: It will be interesting to see how Dontrelle Willis makes the transition to the bullpen after spending his entire career as a starter. While most veterans use Grapefruit League play to build up their arms and shake off the offseason rust, Willis will be learning an entirely new role, one that is difficult to replicate during spring games.

OTHER PLAYERS IN CAMP: The one spot where the Phillies have plenty of near-major-league-ready talent is in the bullpen. Righthander Justin De Fratus was a September call-up last season and could put himself in position for an injury-related call-up with a strong spring. Lefties Joe Savery and Jake Diekman are both intriguing players who have spent most of their minor league careers below the radar. Also in camp will be veterans Raul Valdes and Brian Sanches.

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