Sizing Up Lefty Candidates

Pat Gillick told Todd Zolecki he wants one more left-handed reliever in the bullpen. The search for a situational lefty is on. But who will take it? Here are the candidates for the bullpen role: 

Fabio Castro: The young, short lefty has pitched superb for AA Reading and was moved to their bullpen, signaling the Phils are looking hard at him to move into the big league ‘pen. In Reading he’s 3-0 in 27.1 innings with a 2.96 ERA, striking out 27 while walking 15. His control is his biggest issue — a K/BB ratio close to 2:1 isn’t too bad. It’s possible Castro is the early favorite to get the call south (north).

Josh Outman: The top-five Phillies prospect has also moved to the bullpen in Reading, an intriguing sign that he could be with the club sooner than later. With the Phillies’ rotation not immediately needing help, Outman’s best outlet to Philadelphia now seems to be from this venue. So far he’s pitched 29 innings, going 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA. He does have 34 strikeouts and 17 walks, not bad numbers — the high K numbers are very nice. At 23, he’s almost ready to come to Philly. The downside of this move is Outman could be finished as a starter, in the Phillies’ eyes.

Steve Kline: The elder statesman in the Minor League system, Kline has thrown nine innings, going 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA. He has struck out seven and walked three.

James Happ: A starter in AAA Lehigh Valley, Happ hasn’t helped his cause to come to Philadelphia. He’s 0-3 with a 3.51 ERA, striking out 37 while walking 19, almost 2:1. He’s in a quandary because he’s been a starter his entire career, and any bullpen role would be more long-relief than situational. He’s not really a fit for the Phils’ pen, and is starting to waste away in Allentown.

Shane Youman: Youman hasn’t done well in AA Reading, a bad sign for a guy who was pitching in the Majors last season. He’s 0-0 with a 9.22 ERA in 13.2 innings. 

RJ Swindle: A promising youngster, Swindle, 24, has been working the late innings for the R-Phils. So far, in five innings, he’s yet to give up a run, striking out four while walking one.

The final possible candidate, Vic Darensbourg, was released by the Phillies. He went 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in 9.2 innings. You could also lump AAA pitcher Brian Mazone into the discussion. But as it stands, I’d think it’s Castro’s job to win, with Outman an intriguing spoiler and Kline ready to go if someone stumbles. Who leaves the big roster? It would most likely be Clay Condrey, who would be moved to waivers with the roster move — not a big deal, as the Phils have a younger version of him in Happ.

Other notes: Just to clean up the week that was, as I was cleaning up my life … the Phillies signed infielder Oscar Robles to a Minor League contract. The 32-year-old journeyman is a lifetime .260 hitter with five homers. … To make room for Robles, the Phillies released infielder Chris Woodward. He was picked up off waivers after the Yankees ditched him in Spring Training. … Pitcher Antonio Bastardo has been promoted to AA Reading from A+ Clearwater. Bastardo has been flat-out dominant in 2008, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 30.2 innings. Best of all: 47 strikeouts and 10 walks. Yowza. Bastardo, 22, will join top prospect Carlos Carrasco (4.03 ERA, 34 K, 12 BB), who has struggled of late, in the R-Phils rotation.

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