Chad Qualls and Antonio Bastardo's names will not appear in the box score from yesterday's 1-0 win over the Pirates, but they did provide some indication of Charlie Manuel's plans for the back of the bullpen during the early-going this season. Qualls and Bastardo were both warming up as Roy Halladay finished the bottom of the eighth inning, which jibed with Manuel's earlier suggestion that he would rely on the veteran righty and the young lefty as his primary set-up men.
The Phillies hope that at some point in the not-so-distant future they will be able to add Jose Contreras to the mix, but judging by the veteran right-hander's performance in a rehab start in Clearwater yesterday, his return is not imminent.
Contreras retired just one of the four batters he faced, allowing three runs on two hits and a walk without striking out a batter in the first inning of a game against the Dunedin Blue Jays. Contreras threw 11 pitches, seven of which were balls. Two of his four strikes were hits, including a two-run home run by Marcus Knecht. He also threw two wild pitches before being replaced by lefty Frank Gailey, whom they acquired in exchange for Ben Francisco this offseason (Gailey struck out the two batters he faced).
The run down of Contreras' outing:
1. Jake Marisnick grounds out to second base.
2. Jonathan Jones singles on a ground ball to third baseman Cody Asche.
3. With Sean Ochinko batting, Jones steals second base.
4. Ochinko walks on a wild pitch that allows Jones to advance to third.
5. Jones scores on a wild pitch.
6. Knecht homers to left field.
Assuming Contreras still needs some work on his way back from elbow surgery, the Phillies will get an opportunity to see how Qualls performs in some high leverage situations. He held righties to a .218/.255/.282 line last season, striking out 28 and walking eight while allowing four extra base hits (three home runs) in 171 plate appearances. But Qualls struggled against lefties, allowing a .320/.381/.500 line with 15 strikeouts, 12 walks, 13 extra base hits (4 home runs) in 135 plate appearances.
Qualls is a former set-up man and closer with the Astros and Diamondbacks, but he has not performed well in those situations over the last two seasons. According to Baseball-Reference.com, which breaks down the importance of situations into Low Leverage, Medium Leverage, and High Leverage classifications, Qualls allowed a batting line of .320/.378/.460 with 10 strikeouts, 10 walks, and 6 extra base hits in 117 high-leverage plate appearances last year. In 2010, his line was .346/.402/.526 in 88 high-leverage plate appearances.
In 112 low-leverage plate appearances in 2011, his batting line was .236/.270/.377 with 19 strikeouts, 5 walks and 10 extra base hits (3 home runs).
If Bastardo rediscovers the groove he found last season, the Phillies won't need to worry about pitching a righty in the eighth. But there have been some questions about his velocity this spring, so the eighth inning is something that will remain a question mark until he and Qualls have an opportunity to prove themselves.