Bastardo making a case to be Phillies' primary setup reliever

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Antonio Bastardo is not concerned about which inning he pitches.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Antonio Bastardo is not concerned about which inning he pitches.
Posted: July 15, 2013

IF THE PHILLIES hope to continue churning out wins and moving from pretender to contender this month and beyond, they will need more consistent and reliable efforts from their relief corps.

With veteran setup man Mike Adams sidelined for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, they particularly will need that consistency and reliability at the back of the bullpen. Only one player on the roster has any experience getting regular outs in the eighth inning: Antonio Bastardo.

In conclusion, the Phillies will need the Dr. Jekyll version of the unpredictable Bastardo in the final 2 1/2 months of the season.

Bastardo has fulfilled that promise so far in July. He has allowed one run in five games this month, while striking out seven while walking three in 4 2/3 innings (20 batters faced).

"Lately, he's been good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "And that's what we need."

In the absence of Adams, Bastardo has seen regular work in the eighth inning, including against Washington on Thursday night, when he retired the top of the Nats lineup in order to help secure a 3-1 win.

"I don't look at it like I have the eighth inning now," Bastardo said yesterday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. "It doesn't matter to me. I'm just trying to do my best. I try to do my best, doesn't matter if it's the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning, whatever."

During his breakout season in 2011, when Bastardo was one of the best relievers in baseball, most Bastardo's work (28 1/3 of 58 innings) came in the eighth inning. Bastardo struck out 70 batters and held opponents to a .524 OPS. His .144 opponents' batting average was the second best in baseball among relievers.

The Mr. Hyde version surfaced last year, however, when Bastardo had a 5.34 ERA at the All-Star break. He showed positive signs of life from his left arm toward the end of the season: Bastardo struck out 31 of the 64 batters he faced in his final 20 appearances and was scored on only twice in his last 18 games.

Most of that late-season work also came in the eighth inning, when the Phils attempted a last-gasp run at a wild-card slot. Could a return to a permanent, eighth-inning setup role bring the most out of Bastardo?

"[Because] it's more important? I don't look at it that way," Bastardo said of the eighth inning. "I just try to do my job, whenever it is. It doesn't matter to me. I'm trying to be prepared mentally and physically every time I go out there to do the best I can."

Although Manuel said the eighth inning obviously has added cachet and can help a pitcher professionally (see Adams' contract), Bastardo is more concerned with team results rather than possible individual prestige.

"Right now, anybody can be the setup man," Bastardo said. "[Jonathan] Papelbon is the only one with a role, so I'm OK with the eighth or the seventh . . . We are all just trying to help the team win. That's the goal. So you have to be ready all the time."

Solid rotation

The Phillies' starting rotation has quietly been among the league's best in first half of the season.

The Phils rank first in the NL in innings pitched (582 innings) and fifth in wins (33). Take away Roy Halladay's numbers and the rotation has a 3.65 ERA, which would rank seventh in the league.

The Phillies obviously would hope for the success to carry over after the All-Star break. In an effort to make sure they maximize the talent in their rotation, while also giving guys adequate rest over the break, the rotation will very likely begin with Kyle Kendrick, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee pitching next weekend, in that order, at Citi Field.

Jonathan Pettibone and John Lannan would follow for the first two games in St. Louis on July 23 and 24. If you keep turning the rotation in order, that would set up Hamels and Lee to start the first two games at Comerica Park against the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers on July 26 and 27.

After Pettibone and Lannan pitch in today's doubleheader, Hamels is on tap to start the final game of the first half tomorrow against the White Sox. The Phils could bring Hamels back on regular rest to start on Friday in New York, but nearly every pitcher in baseball gets extra rest, thanks to the break, and the Phils saw how Hamels already benefited from extra rest this month.

Lee hasn't pitched since Wednesday, but he will very likely pitch in Tuesday's All-Star Game. Since he's on full rest, he's probably a lock to pitch for the NL at some point. Since the Phils have three lefties in the rotation, they can't split all of them up. And so: Kendrick, Hamels, Lee, Pettibone and Lannan.

Phillers

Jonathan Papelbon wasn't selected to the NL All-Star roster, but he did manage to reach 20 saves before the break. When Papelbon recorded his 20th save on Thursday night, he extended his streak to 8 straight years with at least 20 saves, the longest active streak in the major leagues. It's also the eighth-longest run in major league history. Tops among the seven pitchers with 20 or more saves in at least nine straight seasons is New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, who ran off 15 straight 20-save seasons from 1997 to 2011 . . . Kevin Frandsen's major league-leading 11 pinch-hits highlights the Phils' overall success in the pinch. The Phillies lead the major leagues in hits (37), total bases (58) and game-winning RBI (six) from their pinch-hitters. They are tied for first in extra-base hits (13) and ranked second in go-ahead RBI (six) . . . Jonathan Pettibone (5-3, 3.84 ERA) will pitch the first game of today's split doubleheader, with John Lannan (2-3, 4.23) to follow in the nightcap.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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