With two spotless innings under his belt with Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League, left-hander Antonio Bastardo is hoping to build momentum toward a larger role in 2011.
Unless the Phillies lure a marquee left-handed free agent, the Phillies have no other choice but to let out Bastardo’s leash next season. We’ve heard about his stuff, we’ve seen a few nasty pitches here and there, but the 25-year-old southpaw remains an enigma. There’s always some excuse to keep him stashed away: an injury, the need for more seasoning or Charlie Manuel’s unwillingness to hand the ball to an unknown. Can you blame him? Even the Phillies’ development staff can’t possibily know what they have on their hands. Since being phased into a reliever, he’s barely pitched, at any level. Encouragingly, he twirled 20 1-3 lights-out innings with Lehigh Valley last season. In multiple stints with the Phils, he pitched 18 2-3 total innings, going days between appearances and pitching just once in the postseason. It wasn’t until late September with rosters expanded that he got into a consistent groove. Over a four-game span, he fanned seven batters in three innings, flashing the live arm we’ve been hearing about.
Beerleaguer has been advising readers to keep track of Bastardo’s winter exploits for years, but this time, I mean it. The Phils will be monitoring his progress and will be looking for consistency, durability and a better slide piece. He’s the reason they took a shot with one lefty – J.C. Romero – last season. Now he’s the guy.