Everything has fallen into place for the Phillies’ bullpen, considered an Achilles Heel before the season by a majority of readers. Is it too soon to say we should have listened to the top brass?
What’s good for the Phillies has been bad for our comments thread, where readers have virtually nothing worth debating. Indeed, the bullpen is operating under a best-case scenario. Everyone is healthy and pitching well. Closer Brad Lidge has been almost unhittable. Aside from opening day, Tom Gordon has been nasty. The only knock on J.C. Romero has been his performance with inherited runners; otherwise he’s picked up where he left off in ’07. Chad Durbin has been the all-purpose contributor the Phillies had hoped for. The same goes for Rudy Seanez, who has been described as the “missing piece” by readers. The emergence of Durbin, and signing of Seanez, has allowed Ryan Madson to enter situations like last night: to clean up the slop after the Phillies blow it open.
Of course, the Phillies expected this all along. Everyone from top boss Pat Gillick to field boss Charlie Manuel said they liked the way the pen set up, as long as everyone stayed healthy. And as we’ve seen, this group, when healthy, can shut ’em down.
Fallback plans: The success of the bullpen won’t stop us from visualizing the worst-case scenario, like the wet blankets we are. What happens when Gordon gets hurt again, for instance? One option could be left-hander Ray King, who was demoted by the Nationals to Triple-A Columbus yesterday, but the veteran elected free agency instead. King hasn’t pitched since April 23, a mini-meltdown against the Mets, otherwise he’s been a decent situation left-hander again, one area where the Phillies might prefer to use a roster spot, instead of Clay Condrey, who has only pitched in low-leverage spots, and hasn’t pitched particularly well.
Another option, perhaps down the road, may be to rescue left-hander J.A. Happ from the misery of Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Happ, 25, pitched a seven-inning shutout last night, but for the second night in a row, the IronPigs suffered another two-hit, shutout loss, falling to Syracuse 1-0. For Happ, it was his second seven-inning gem in as many tries, and one begins to wonder whether the best plan would be to call him up for some hands-on training in long relief instead of more of the same in Triple-A. Other clubs have had success bringing along pitchers this way.