In the next day or two, the Philadelphia Phillies will have setup man Jose Contreras return from the disabled list. In three to four weeks, closer Brad Lidge will return from the disabled list.
Assuming the Phillies have everybody healthy in the next month or so, they’re going to have some big questions to figure out regarding their bullpen. Thankfully, manager Charlie Manuel has to like his options in relief.
First, there’s Brad Lidge, who was the best closer in baseball in 2008. He struggled, to say the least, in 2009, but regained his form at the end of the 2010 season. He can still be counted on to deliver with the game on the line.
Ryan Madson has been one of the three best setup men in the game over the last few seasons. As the team’s fill-in closer this year, he has turned quite a few heads, converting all nine save opportunities and posting a 1.80 ERA (0.47 before today’s game).
Jose Contreras filled in as the temporary closer when Lidge was first place on the disabled list, before suffering an injury himself. He has a 0.00 ERA and has converted all five save opportunities this season. Even at 39, Contreras can still pitch effectively.
Lefty specialist Antonio Bastardo has also stepped up in relief (1.10 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 16.1 innings). JC Romero has struggled, at times, as the lefty specialist, but still has a 3.86 ERA this season, slightly better than the league average.
Michael Stutes has pitched in 11 games, posting a 2.35 ERA. Vance Worley has a 1.13 ERA in four games this season (two starts, two relief appearances), but he’s currently filling in for Joe Blanton as the team’s fifth starter. Kyle Kendrick has made 11 relief appearances and two starts and has a 3.28 ERA. And Danys Baez has posted a 4.19 ERA in 18 appearances.
For obvious reasons, I am assuming that Mike Zagurski (6.75 ERA in 1.1 innings), Scott Mathieson (2.33 WHIP in 2 innings), and David Herndon (8.03 ERA in 12 games) will not be on the roster, or at least not factored in as primarily relief options.
Now If I were Charlie Manuel, here’s what I would do with the relievers. I’m assuming the team will keep 12 pitchers, like they have now. Five will be starters, meaning the Phillies need seven relievers.
I’d keep Ryan Madson as my closer. He’s pitched well this entire season and has showed since 2007 that he has what it takes to be a dominant reliever.
I’d make Brad Lidge my eighth inning guy. It’s a role he’s not familiar with, but he should be able to get the job done, and if Madson struggles (and I mean really struggles), I’d make Lidge the closer again.
I’d pick Jose Contreras as my number two setup man, likely the guy to pitch the seventh inning.
I’d keep Worley as the fifth starter until Blanton returns (and I predict that Blanton may not be back until 2012).
I’d use Bastardo as my number one lefty specialist, and Romero as number two.
And I’d keep Michael Stutes and Kyle Kendrick in the bullpen. Stutes has shown potential this season, and I’m not completely ready to give up on Kendrick yet, plus he can be the team’s long reliever.
That leaves Baez as the odd man out. He’s 33 and is signed through the end of the season but I’d see if I could trade him for a prospect or two around the All-Star break. He’s had a decent career and was an All-Star once. Some team will offer something for him.
Again, my relievers look like this: Madson (closer), Lidge (8th), Contreras (7th), Bastardo (lefty), Romero (lefty), Stutes, and Kendrick (long relief).