Phillies find some decent depth in Figueroa

Nelson Figueroa was claimed on waivers from the Mets. (AP Photo/Rick Silva)

It appears as if Andrew Carpenter's stay with the Phillies will be a short one. The right hander, called up to serve as the long man in the bullpen on Opening Day, is likely headed back to the rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley now that the Phillies have claimed veteran righthander Nelson Figueroa off waivers from the Mets. Carpenter appears to be the next man standing should the Phillies need a starting pitcher, so getting him back on a once-every-five-days schedule makes sense. Figueroa, meanwhile, will join a bullpen that is already laden with former starters. And while he struggled at times with his command over the last couple of seasons with the Mets, he'll bolster the experience in the Phillies bullpen while also providing some much-needed depth for the rotation.

The Phillies had been searching for a player to provide depth, much like Rodrigo Lopez did last season. At the very least, Figueroa would seem to be a fortunate find to fill this role.

If Figueroa sounds or looks familiar, there is a good reason. The 35-year-old was part of the Curt Schilling trade back in July of 2000, when the Phillies acquired him, first baseman Travis Lee and righthanders Vicente Padilla and Omar Daal in exchange for their disgruntled ace. Figueroa went 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA in 19 games, 13 of them starts, for the Phillies in 2001. He did not make the team the following season, and was claimed off of waivers by the Brewers. Figueroa pitched for the Brewers in 2002 and the Pirates in 2003 and 2004 before undergoing shoulder surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff in October of 2004. He missed all of 2005, pitched briefly in independent ball in 2006, and then joined resuscitated his career in the Mexican League in 2007.

Figueroa resurfaced in the majors in 2008, when he signed with the Mets as a minor league free agent. Over the last two seasons, he went 6-11 with a 4.28 ERA, 1.539 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 in 16 starts and 16 relief appearances.

Figueroa's fastball sits in the high 80's, but he relies heavily on a repertoire of off-speed pitches that includes a slider, curve-ball and change-up.

We'll find out more about how the Phillies view Figueroa soon. He seems likely to start off as the team's long man, ready to pitch in blowouts or make a spot start, but he does have respectable strikeout numbers. In 16 relief appearances in 2008 and 2009, he allowed nine earned runs in 24.1 innings (3.36 ERA) and struck out 23 while walking 10 (8.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9).

Figueroa was competing for a spot in the Mets rotation and started the spring by pitching 11 scoreless innings in his first four outings. But on March 26 he allowed seven runs in 2.2 innings against the Marlins, and on Monday the Mets designated him for assignment.

Figueroa faced the Phillies three times last season, pitching 3.1 innings of relief on Aug. 22 and 23 at Citi Field (he allowed two runs on six hits and three walks), and starting at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 11 (he allowed two runs on nine hits and five walks in 5.1 innings).

Over the last two years, he has held righthanders to a .251 average, .325 on base percentage and .717 OPS while striking out 59 and walking 22 in 273 at-bats.

Left-handed hitters have had more success, hitting .310 with a .399 on base percentage and .843 OPS, with 36 strikeouts and 28 walks in 187 at-bats.

In 17 starts at Triple-A Buffalo last year, Figueroa was 7-5 with a 2.25 ERA.

In a press release, the Phillies said they will clear a space for Figueroa on the 25-man roster once he reports to the club. As mentioned before, that move will likely see Carpenter being optioned back to Lehigh Valley. With Figueroa now on the 40-man roster, the Phillies now have one more spot available.


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