Charlie Manuel is excited about Phillies bullpen

"I think that you can see our bullpen really blossom with who we have," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. Reliever Chad Durbin was "out there at a very good price," saidGM Ruben Amaro Jr.
"I think that you can see our bullpen really blossom with who we have," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. Reliever Chad Durbin was "out there at a very good price," saidGM Ruben Amaro Jr. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: January 29, 2013

The banquet season is almost over for Charlie Manuel, who yearns for something other than hefty dinners and handshakes. He wistfully spoke Monday about new batting cages installed in Clearwater, then said there are many "ifs" on his roster from the lineup to the defense and the pitching.

"I'm excited about our bullpen," Manuel said before the 109th Philadelphia Sports Writers Association's banquet at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill.

So there is that, with two weeks until Phillies spring training opens. The bullpen was a failing unit for much of 2012 and a priority this winter. The latest addition, Chad Durbin, is a familiar name from times when the "ifs" hardly dogged Phillies baseball.

Durbin agreed Monday to a one-year, $1.1 million deal, pending a physical, a source said. There is a club option for 2014. The 35-year-old spent three seasons in Philadelphia and was one of Manuel's most durable and versatile arms.

He joins the formidable tandem of Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams at the back of the bullpen. Add Antonio Bastardo's tantalizing talent along with a cadre of young arms and the Phillies have, on paper, a strong collection.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he felt it necessary to add Durbin despite his stable of young middle relievers.

"He was a guy who was out there at a very good price," Amaro said.

Beyond the four established relievers, there are three other jobs for pitchers such as Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Jeremy Horst, Mike Stutes, Jake Diekman, and B.J. Rosenberg.

"I think that you can see our bullpen really blossom with who we have," Manuel said.

Durbin had his best season while with the Phillies in 2008 and was popular in the team's clubhouse.

After a lost season with Cleveland in 2011, Durbin was reliable in 2012 for Atlanta. He posted a 2.33 ERA over 58 innings after allowing three home runs in his first three appearances with the Braves. Durbin was mostly used in the seventh inning.

Last season, Durbin pitched on back-to-back days a career-high 19 times. He appeared in a career-high 76 games but pitched only 61 innings. Durbin averaged 751/3 innings per season while with the Phillies.

"He can give us something that the young guys may not be able to give us and that's experience," Amaro said.

There will be other decisions to make, probably more than in a typical Manuel spring training, but the manager is steadfast in his positivity. Some of those "ifs" will be answered soon.

Betancourt signs on

The Phillies signed infielder Yuniesky Betancourt to a minor-league deal. He is invited to big-league spring training, where a chance at a bench job could await.

More than likely, Betancourt will simply provide shortstop depth if he agrees to a triple-A assignment. The 30-year-old has spent parts of eight seasons with Seattle, Kansas City, and Milwaukee. The Royals released him Aug. 14.

If the Phillies must rely on Betancourt for anything more than depth, they could be in deep trouble. Betancourt is an out-making machine who has not posted an OPS above .693 in five seasons.

Betancourt's career on-base percentage of .290 is 11th worst in the expansion era (since 1961) among players with at least 3,800 plate appearances.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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