Aug 112010

August 11 Philadelphia Daily News

“At the onset of the season, the Phillies thought Antonio Bastardo had the potential to work his way toward the back of their bullpen, his explosive fastball and improving slider the type of pitches that coaches look for in late-innings relievers.

Well, they still feel that way, as evidenced by their decision to call him up from Triple A Lehigh Valley yesterday. But the 24-year-old lefthander’s development has taken a detour this summer.

So what happened?

Three things: Bastardo battled some mechanical issues, struggled with the consistency of his breaking ball and suffered an injury. And as is often the case, there was probably some correlation among the three.

Bastardo never has been short on potential. He burst onto the scene last season with a solid big-league debut in a spot start, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts in six innings of a 10-5 win at San Diego. But Bastardo had mixed results in four subsequent starts and went on the disabled list from June 26 to Sept. 3 with a shoulder injury. He was sent to Double A Reading, then the Florida Instructional League before being recalled on Oct. 3. After using him out of the bullpen in the playoffs – he faced two batters, striking out Colorado’s Jason Giambi with the bases loaded in the NLDS and allowing a double to Andre Ethier in the NLCS – the Phillies converted him to a reliever full-time.

Bastardo began this season as their only lefty in the bullpen (veteran J.C. Romero missed the first month while recovering from offseason elbow surgery). In his first 15 appearances, he struck out 13 and allowed six hits and five earned runs in 11 2/3 innings. But he also developed a couple of glitches, pitching coach Rich Dubee said.

The first involved the early stages of his delivery. Rather than transferring the ball from his glove to his throwing motion in a smooth, fluid manner, he was “stabbing” it. In other words, he would jab his arm straight toward the ground (as if stabbing at it) while bending his back leg and loading for the throw. The violent delivery not only affected his command, it likely led to the elbow inflammation that sent him to the disabled list on June 16.

“Once you stab down, your arm stops, and you have to try to start again,” Dubee said.

The second glitch involved his breaking ball. Instead of a tight slider in the mid-80s, Bastardo would sometimes unleash a pitch with less velocity and a slower break, more like a curve.

“His breaking ball got loopy, at 79, 80 miles an hour when it should be 83, 85, 86 even at times,” Dubee said.

Last month, after the young lefty finished his rehab, the Phillies sent him to Triple A. In 15 appearances there, he tossed 13 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just seven baserunners (four hits, three walks) while striking out 21.”

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