Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Decisions, Decisions: Antonio Bastardo

Right now, the Phillies are in evaluation mode. Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted the obvious yesterday, that he and the rest of the decision-makers in the front office and on the coaching staff will not be able to make any final roster or rotation decisions until the conclusion of the American League Championship Series. Throughout the weekend, we'll break down some of the unresolved situations they will be pondering. There are several significant decisions: Who will start Game 2 -- Cole Hamels or Pedro Martinez? Might Cliff Lee pitch on three days rest? Keep 12 pitchers or 11? Eric Bruntlett or Miguel Cairo or both?

Decisions, Decisions: Antonio Bastardo

Antonio Bastardo pitches in Game 1 of the NLCS.  (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Antonio Bastardo pitches in Game 1 of the NLCS. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

Right now, the Phillies are in evaluation mode. Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted the obvious yesterday, that he and the rest of the decision-makers in the front office and on the coaching staff will not be able to make any final roster or rotation decisions until the conclusion of the American League Championship Series. Throughout the weekend, we'll break down some of the unresolved situations they will be pondering. There are several significant decisions: Who will start Game 2 -- Cole Hamels or Pedro Martinez? Might Cliff Lee pitch on three days rest? Keep 12 pitchers or 11? Eric Bruntlett or Miguel Cairo or both? 

First, though, here's an under-the-radar decision that could affect the final roster spot: Should Antonio Bastardo remain on the team?

The logic in keeping the rookie lefthander around for the first couple rounds was obvious: With Scott Eyre pitching with a loose body in his elbow, the Phillies only veteran southpaw in the bullpen was somewhat of a question mark. The Phillies faced a left-handed-heavy Rockies team, and a Dodgers squad that featured dangerous left-handed sluggers like Andre Ethier, James Loney and two lefties on the bench in Juan Pierre and Jim Thome.

But in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Bastardo faced just two batters. He struck out one -- Jason Giambi in Colorado -- and allowed a hit to the other. Eyre, meanwhile, has shown no ill effects from his injury.

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If the Phillies truly believe Brett Myers is in a position to help the team -- Amaro said yesterday Myers' stuff has looked much crisper than it did in the NLDS, when he allowed two walks and hit a batter in his only appearance -- they will find a way to put him on the roster. Amaro said yesterday the inclusion of Myers could boil down to whether the Phillies keep 11 or 12 pitchers -- If they go with 12, as they did in the NLDS, Myers would be the logical 12th man.

But what if they want to keep both Miguel Cairo, whose NLCS experience was limited to a pair of pinch-hit at-bats, and Eric Bruntlett, who showed his value as a pinch runner?

Is it worth keeping Bastardo around?

On paper, the Yankees don't have the type of vulnerable left-handed slugger to match-up situationally with Bastardo. Hideki Matsui has hit better against lefties than righties in each of the last two seasons, and this year has 13 home runs in 131 at-bats against lefties. Mark Texeira has shown more power from the left side of the plate, but is equally dangerous from the righ side, as evidenced by his at-bat against Darren Oliver in Game 4 of the ALCS (Just ask John Lackey).

Johnny Damon hits righties better than lefties. And while Robinson Cano hit .326 with 15 home runs in 417 ABs vs. righties this season, he hit .306 with 10 home runs in 220 ABs vs. lefties.

But the biggest question: Does Charlie Manuel have enough faith in Bastardo to send him into a big moment in the World Series against the best-hitting team in baseball? And if he doesn't, would the Phillies be better suited keeping an experienced arm on the roster -- whether it be Myers, Clay Condrey or Tyler Walker -- even if that arm is a right-handed one?

Granted, this is assuming the Yankees win tonight or, if weather affects the start, tomorrow.

But even if the Angels are the opponent, if the Phillies' plan is to keep J.A. Happ available in the bullpen, which Manuel said it was, at least for the first few games, what chance would a third lefthander, one who has faced just two batters this postseason, have of getting into a game?

 

It's something to think about. . .

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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