In today's Daily News, Paul Hagen takes a look at the unsettled situation in the Phillies bullpen, where over the past few days young lefthanders Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona have each experienced Grapefruit League hiccups. Bastardo is the clear frontrunner for an Opening Day roster spot, but pitching coach Rich Dubee didn't exactly sound thrilled with the situation when Hagen talked to him yesterday. It is too early to start scrambling for alternatives -- I didn't think Bastardo pitched as bad as his numbers indicated on Saturday -- but the Phillies are certainly monitoring the situation closely. As we've pointed out several times this offseason, the free agent market isn't stocked with Rolaids Relief Man candidates. At this point, there are three lefties available on the market who could fit with the Phillies. Former Royals lefty Ron Mahay would be my leading candidate to join the team, if they decide to go that route, followed by former Rockies Alan Embree and Joe Beimel.
Mahay - The Phillies have expressed cursory interest in the 39-year-old veteran over the past couple of seasons. And after posting a 4.79 ERA and 1.790 WHIP for the Royals, who released him in August, he might be forced to settle for a minor league deal. Mahay has appeared in the playoffs just once in his 13-year-career -- this year with the Twins, who signed him after his release from KC.
Beimel - Solid ERA (3.17) and manageable WHIP (1.361) over last five seasons, but he has never been great against lefties, and just doesn't seem to fit with what the Phillies are looking for.
Embree - At 39 years old, he struggled for the Rockies last season. Has held lefties to a career .239 average.
The Phillies are in a tough situation. They have no idea how successful Romero will be with his comeback from elbow surgery. In an ideal world, they'd be able to evaluate Bastardo over the first month or so of the regular season. But if they decide Bastardo isn't ready even to make the Opening Day roster, it would be tough to expect him to be called up later in the season and thrust into a pivotal role.
On the other hand, it would be tough to keep both Bastardo (or Escalona or fellow prospect Mike Zagurski), and add a free agent like Mahay, or Beimel, or Embree for insurance, because the Phillies are already looking at a situation where they might want to have a bullpen spot for the loser of the Kyle Kendrick/Jamie Moyer competition. And they could also want to find a roster spot for Rule 5 pick David Herndon, who has thrived in the Grapefruit League and whose heavy sinker has drawn raves from just about everybody in the organization.