Bullpen a Point of Contention

Recently, they’ve gotten healthy and are nearly at “full strength”. However, the Phillies bullpen is still not a strength – as you can tell by the sarcastic quotations – but has become a glaring weakness.

We did our midseason review of each phase of the club last week and the bullpen got many unsavory grades. Ryan Madson drew a failure and Danys Baez drew a near-failure, while Brad Lidge was mediocre at best.

Overall, while ranking them with the other teams in the National League, they haven’t been terrible. They sit in the middle of the pack in ERA (7th) and batting average against (10th), while pitching the least amount of innings in the senior circuit.

Injuries have taken their toll on the relief core, just as they have throughout the Phillies roster. Is a makeover of some sort in the works? How can they accomplish that? It won’t be easy.

Charlie Manuel has already stated that there is a need for pitching, both starters and relievers. He also stated that “Brad Lidge is our closer,” whether you want to hear that or not.

Financially, they don’t have much room to maneuver. Their quest for another bullpen arm is clearly high on the team’s to-do list, but to make it happen Ruben Amaro will need to be creative. He has time – the trade deadline is July 31 – but may want to move quickly as the bullpen has been shaky lately

Move Jayson Werth and acquire a reliever in the deal:

It’s not a certainty that Jayson Werth will be dealt; the Phils are worried that will leave them without enough pop in the order from the right side. On the other hand, if they do keep him, they risk losing him for nothing in the offseason.

If they are to make a deal, with the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox as all possible destinations preliminarily, the wise thing would be to pry a relief arm away, much the same as Texas did when grabbing Cliff Lee on Friday. They also took on injured relief pitcher Mark Lowe. He’s out right now, but they are hoping he can return in September and help them in the late innings.

A three-team trade can also accomplish this. Even though my gut says Werth stays in red pinstripes, it’s not out of the question a deal will be made. That also could mean a relief arm could be inserted in a trade.

Release/trade David Herndon, call up Scott Mathieson:

He’s ready. Scott Mathieson got a quick taste of the bigs earlier in the season and no doubt is chomping at the bit to be called up. At Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Mathieson has struck out 49 batters in 38 2/3 innings, while walking 15 and allowing 25 hits. There isn’t much more to prove at that level.

That’s unfortunate for David Herndon. He was thought to be a steal in the Rule 5 draft after a blazing spring training. His 1.65 WHIP is downright ugly here in the major league and although his ERA has dipped below four, Herndon is allowing far too many baserunners. With his Rule 5 status, he cannot be moved to the minor leagues, but allowing him to walk, or attempting to trade him, could very well be an option at some point.

Send Kyle Kendrick out there:

When J.A. Happ is deemed healthy enough to return to the major leagues, you would think he’d be placed back in the rotation. It’s not a definite, but it would be my guess. Kyle Kendrick then becomes the odd man out and is sent to the pen. That’s fine.

KK has done an adequate job as the fifth starter this season while Happ and Joe Blanton mended their injuries. In seven games out of the bullpen a year ago, Kendrick was decent, posting a 1.33 WHIP, allowing six earned in 15 innings of work. Happ has been slightly more impressive as a reliever during his career (1.28 WHIP, 3.94 ERA), but is the better starter provided his health in not an issue.

In the end it could be a toss up between these two on who goes to the outfield seats if an acquisition is not made.

Call Scott Eyre:

Eyre says he’s enjoying life away from baseball, but that could change if the Phils come calling for the stretch run. Who knows if Eyre has even picked up a baseball since the Phils let him walk of the winter, what is known is it couldn’t hurt to kick the tires again. He was a solid lefty arm, although this scenario is highly unlikely.

Do nothing and hope:

This might not be the best idea. When Chad Durbin returns from the disabled list, the Phillies will have a core group of Durbin, Contreras, Romero, Madson, and Lidge. Does that list tickle your fancy? Probably not – but those five, along with Baez, will have combined to rake in over $27 million this season. They’ll have to rely on those arms, like it or not. The question is: can they add to the party in the next month?

What do you think is the best course of action?

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