It’s time to think bullpen

 Posted by at 11:10 am
Jul 282010

July 28 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford

“There are two ways for a baseball team to improve its pitching – from the front end of the game and from the back.

The hope is that, when you’re done, the talents of the starting rotation and those of the bullpen blend smoothly at some point beyond the middle of the game.

If the Phillies are going to make a run at a playoff spot, their pitching has to get better, and probably significantly better. Of the two ways to improve, the first choice would be to land a top-of-the-rotation starter before the non-waiver trade deadline expires Saturday afternoon.

“Probably a starter,” Charlie Manuel said before Tuesday’s 9-5 win over Arizona when asked which method he would prefer. “If we get the type of starter we want to see, then we’d have a strong top of the rotation, and going down the stretch and into the playoffs that comes into play big.”

Adding a pitcher of, say, the caliber of Houston’s Roy Oswalt to a staff that already contains Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels would give the Phils a dominant core to the rotation and give Manuel the luxury of picking and choosing among his other available starters to fill the other spots. It would also very nearly corner the market on talented Roys in the major leagues.

The problem, of course, is that trying to go in that direction is a lot harder than the alternative. The Astros want a lot in return for Oswalt, just to stick with that name, and then there is the matter of Oswalt’s contract, which the pitcher would like sweetened if he agrees to a deal.

“I’m not worried about the money,” Manuel said. “I don’t get into that. I’ll let the organization take care of the money.”

The organization likes to take care of its money. It likes to protect its prospects and keep its position players intact. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. can accomplish all three of those goals by doing nothing before Saturday, or he can weigh the risk and reward of various deals and sail in the direction of the fairest wind.

For his part, Manuel is not as concerned with the consequences of making the team better right now. Managers who find themselves on teams building for the future usually don’t have one themselves.

“I’m for today. Why shouldn’t I be? That’s my job,” Manuel said. “The organizational standpoint is not only for today but for putting a team on the field that will be here for a while. They see a bigger picture. I got a smaller picture.”

It might be that the big picture of the front office means Manuel’s help will come in the form of bullpen help. If they can’t get a frontline starter, there is no sense in getting a middling starter. They have some of those.

Among the relievers being considered are Scott Downs of Toronto and Craig Breslow of Oakland, a pair of hard-throwing lefthanders. At the moment, J.C. Romero is the only lefthander in a Phils bullpen that has been both imbalanced and inconsistent.”

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