A bit of clarity was added over the weekend with addition of set up man Mike Adams into the mix as the key 8th inning bridge to Papelbon. Beyond Adams and Papelbon, the bullpen is filled with questions marks. It seems the only relievers assured of Phillies roster spots are Papelbon, Adams, and Antonio Bastardo, who was less than solid last year. After that, questions abound.
From the left side, Jeremy Horst is a front runner to land in back of Bastardo. Horst was impressive during his second half call up to the Phils, throwing in 32 games and going 2-0 with a 1.15 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Horst struck out 40 in 31.1 innings of work.
The health of Mike Stutes is the first question mark from the right side. Recovering from significant surgery, Stutes may need some time in AAA before he reaches the level at which he pitched during the 2011 season for the Phils. The rest of the pack consists of Justin DeFratus, Phillippe Aumont, Michael Schwimer, BJ Rosenberg, Raul Valdes, and Jacob Diekman.
From the above group DeFratus and Aumont seem to have the lead on two of the final spots in the bullpen. Both were filthy in the minors, with Aumont less consistent than DeFratus, but slightly more filthy. Each showed both promise and growing pains at times for the big club, but 2013 should present real opportunity for each to stick at the major league level.
The final spot will be an interesting race as to how the Phils want to round out their bullpen. BJ Rosenberg was awful during his first several outings with the Phils, but settled down to show some promise towards the end of the season. He could land as the front runner because of his ability to throw 2-3 innings if needed. Having watched Rosenberg many times at Reading and Lehigh Valley over the past two seasons, Rosenberg does have the ability to be an effective, but not dominant (think Chad Durbin) major league reliever. Raul Valdes, a veteran lefty was extremely effective for the Phils before getting injured mid season. Valdes has the ability to throw multiple innings as well and has the built in advantage of throwing lefty. With several off days at the beginning of the season, keeping Valdes in the bigs and allowing Rosenberg to stretch out his arm in Lehigh Valley may make some short term sense.
Last but not least (at least in my mind), is Michael Schwimer. While recognizing my admitted bias because I know and like Schwim, he showed significant potential at times as part of the bridge to Papelbon, throwing effectively in the 7th inning before his much debated injury cropped up that ended his season. Schwim says his arm wasn’t right. The Phillies said his arm wasn’t injured enough for the DL. In my mind at least, we must defer to the athlete as only he(she), knows how his body feels. Knowing his level of competitiveness, it was killing Schwimer to be unable to compete as the year closed out, as several relievers made their impression on the Phillies. I expect Schwimer to come out strong in the Spring. Success has the ability to make negative memories very short lived.