Enter Mike Adams, who has spent the past five seasons as one of the top setup men in the game. His career numbers are sparkling: a 2.28 ERA, 9.0 K/9 innings, 2.6 BB/9, and 0.7 HR/9. Last year, he posted a 3.27 ERA for the Rangers, converting all 27 of his hold opportunities.
Like so many other members of this Phillies roster, the question about Adams is health. He missed half of the 2009 season after undergoing shoulder surgery, and missed a month in 2010 with an oblique strain. Last year, he was plagued by a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome that required offseason surgery. Adams, who will turn 35 years old this season, saw his strikeout numbers drop last season. The Phillies added another veteran arm in Chad Durbin late in the offseason, but Adams was their marquee signing of the offseason, and they gave him a 2-year, $12 million deal with the belief that he would own the eighth inning the way Ryan Madson did before departing as a free agent last year.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have to feel good about the young depth they have behind their setup/closer combo.
One of the most heated competitions of the spring will feature the young relievers, where prospects Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus will be vying for roster spots with 2011 standout Mike Stutes, who is coming off shoulder surgery, lefties Jeremy Horst and Jake Diekman. With Adams, Papelbon, Durbin and lefty setup man Antonio Bastardo, the Phillies likely have either two or three openings in the bullpen, depending on whether they keep 11 or 12 pitchers on the roster.
Both Diekman and Horst could make a case for the squad.
In 56 plate appearances against lefties, Diekman allowed just nine hits, two for extra bases, none of them home runs. He struck out 18 and walked eight. Against righties, he walked 12 and allowed six extra-base hits with 17 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances. Horst was even better, holding lefties to seven singles, one double and four walks while striking out 17 in 52 plate appearances. Bastardo, meanwhile, held lefties to a .169/.255/.313 line with 34 strikeouts and nine walks in 95 plate appearances.
The hope is that all three pitchers can develop into something more than lefty specialists. Diekman and Bastardo in particular have the stuff to handle a late inning by themselves. Bastardo spent most of the 2011 season as the Phillies' top option in the eighth inning, but he never seemed to find his electric stuff last season. They might not need him at that level, provided veteran righthanders Papelbon and Adams remain healthy. Papelbon was his usual dominant self last season, converting 38 of 42 save opportunities while posting a 2.44 ERA and averaging 11.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9.
This spring, the Phillies will try to determine the best personnel to get him into more save opportunities.
Opening Day projection:
RHP Jonathan Papelbon, RHP Mike Adams, LHP Antonio Bastardo, RHP Chad Durbin, LHP Jeremy Horst, LHP Jake Diekman, RHP Mike Stutes.
Names to know:
RHPs Michael Schwimer and B.J. Rosenberg both spent long stretches on the major league roster last year, although both are likely on the outside looking in as far as the Opening Day numbers go. RHP Juan Cruz, a non-roster invitee, posted a 2.78 ERA, 8.3 K/9 innings and 4.8 BB/9 for the Pirates last year. LHPs Raul Valdes and Joe Savery also saw big-league action. RHPs Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont could make things interesting for Stutes, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Also, keep an eye on Kyle Simon, who the team acquired in the Jim Thome trade and who will get plenty of looks.
Tomorrow: The Bench