Despite differences, Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer still in mix

Michael Schwimer works out with the team in Clearwater. He said he was injured last season when he was sent to triple A. The Phils did not agree. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Michael Schwimer works out with the team in Clearwater. He said he was injured last season when he was sent to triple A. The Phils did not agree. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: February 19, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Michael Schwimer should not be here. The tall, bushy-haired pitcher sits alone most mornings at his locker in the center of the Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field. When Schwimer challenged management's decision six months ago to send him to triple A rather than place him on the disabled list, it created friction in an already strained relationship.

The Phillies had every reason to cut ties this winter. They did not.

"The whole front office wants to win," Schwimer said. "I believe they think I can help them do that. They've shown nothing to support the opposite of that. I didn't think, 'Oh, you [ticked] them off, they're going to trade you.' "

It is unclear whether the Phillies share Schwimer's sunny disposition. The righthander claimed he was injured last August when the Phillies demoted him to triple-A Lehigh Valley. He did not report to Allentown, instead seeking a second opinion for what he described as a biceps injury. He never pitched for the IronPigs and was not recalled by the Phillies in September.

This spring, the competition for bullpen jobs is strong and crowded. Schwimer started and finished last season in the minors but still amassed more innings (341/3) than any other Phillies reliever not named Jonathan Papelbon or Antonio Bastardo.

Schwimer logged a 1.93 ERA in 23 games after an epiphany during an afternoon June bullpen session in Baltimore with pitching coach Rich Dubee. He was tagged for five runs in his final three outings and ended 2012 with a 4.46 ERA.

"I voiced something was bothering me," Schwimer said. "But evidently I did not voice it in the proper fashion."

Major League Baseball's rules prevent an injured player from being sent to the minors. The Phillies disagreed with Schwimer's diagnosis by publicly stating he was not hurt, and the pitcher soon sought action.

"He right now does not feel he can pitch," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Aug. 31. "When he's ready to pitch, he'll pitch."

The matter may not be closed, either. Schwimer said no grievance had been filed with the players' union. But when asked if one was or still is being pursued he stammered before saying, "I'm not going to talk about that part of it."

Scott Proefrock, Phillies assistant general manager, was asked Sunday if the club still contended that Schwimer was healthy last August.

"I'm not going to comment on that," Proefrock said.

The union can investigate a claim without a formal grievance, and it is believed that process started at Schwimer's behest. If Schwimer were to eventually fight the decision, he could win, at best, service time and back pay for the final five weeks of 2012. That amount equates to roughly $75,000.

Schwimer said he kept a journal detailing his rehabilitation. He said by Oct. 25 he was throwing without pain. That would all be evidence for a potential claim. The Phillies are sure to have theirs, too.

It was not the first time the front office took issue with Schwimer. Last May, Schwimer tweeted about three roster moves the Phillies had yet to announce.

Schwimer turns 27 on Tuesday and was married two weeks ago. He has kept a lower profile during the first week of camp. He spoke of last season being a "learning process." Even so, it may have damaged his standing.

"He's in our camp, isn't he?" Dubee said. "Well, then, he'll have a chance to open eyes."

Dubee said he would not comment beyond that.

"I've always felt like they've put the best 25 guys on the field no matter what," Schwimer said. "I have been given a fair shot on the field."

With a productive spring, Schwimer can test that belief.

Contact Matt Gelb


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