CLEARWATER, Fla. -- And then there were 12 healthy pitchers in camp.
The Phillies optioned Scott Mathieson and Mike Zagurski to minor-league camp Saturday morning. With Brad Lidge and Brian Schlitter injured, it appears the team's pitching staff is set.
That is, of course, barring a trade or last-minute waiver acquisition. And I wouldn't rule that out.
UPDATE 11:46 a.m.: For what it's worth, Rich Dubee said the bullpen is not set despite there only being seven pitchers in camp. He could be blowing smoke up your you-know-what, but in an interesting development, Mike Stutes has returned from minor-league camp for the day. He'll pitch in today's Grapefruit League game after Kyle Kendrick and Ryan Madson.
So as it stands, here is your opening day bullpen:
RHP Ryan Madson
RHP Jose Contreras
LHP J.C. Romero
RHP Danys Baez
LHP Antonio Bastardo
RHP David Herndon
RHP Kyle Kendrick
Obviously, closer is a question. That comes down to Madson or Contreras.
But to me, seventh inning is just as big a question. The trickle-down effect of losing Lidge means Contreras is bumped from the seventh. The pitcher who was mostly responsible for that inning over the previous three seasons, Chad Durbin, is in Cleveland.
Look at that list and pick out a guy who can be trusted right now to be the regular seventh-inning man. Yeah.
For reference, here is how the Phillies handled the seventh inning in 2010. Small sample sizes, beware, of course:
By the way, in case you were wondering, the seventh inning was the Phillies' worst (by OPS) in 2010.
In 2009, the seventh inning was the team's best (a .664 OPS against and 3.47 ERA). And in 2008, the seventh inning was also the team's best (a .635 OPS against and a 2.61 ERA).
What does this all mean? Hard to say. The seventh is usually the inning in which a starting pitcher may tire and a reliever is brought in with men on base.
After Durbin, Roy Halladay (.797 OPS), Cole Hamels (.684) and Joe Blanton (1.215) faced the most batters of any Phillies pitcher in the seventh inning. Those numbers for Halladay and Blanton are not pretty, so that is less blame upon the relievers.
And yes, the Phillies have a rotation of four aces and hope the seventh inning is pitched by a starter. On some nights it will be. On others it will not.
Is Baez that guy to take over in the seventh? The guess is he will be the first choice, merely by default.
But remember 2008. Durbin entered that season as the long man / mop-up guy. In a few months, he had taken over the seventh and became a trusted reliever.
The Phillies must hope either Bastardo, Herndon or Kendrick follows the same route.
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.
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