Bastardo has himself in a good spot

(Photo: Chris O'Meara / AP)

Antonio Bastardo has himself in a position where he could easily win a spot in the Phillies bullpen this season. All he has to do is show that he won't have to rely on his fastball the way he has in the past and that he can still pitch effectively that way. No problem, right?

Last year, Antonio Bastardo spent nearly two-thirds of his first 94 days in the majors on the disabled list with a strained shoulder. But when the Phillies needed a second left-handed reliever for the postseason, they had enough confidence to put him on the roster.

Imagine, then, the opportunity Bastardo will have this spring.

With one spot - and maybe more, depending on the health of closer Brad Lidge and left-hander J.C. Romero - open in the Phillies' bullpen, Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee will be paying attention to Bastardo during spring training. And fresh off of a dominating performance in the Dominican winter league, he may even be the early favorite to win the job.

Bastardo, 24, posted a 1.50 ERA with six strikeouts in seven innings for los Gigantes del Cibao during the regular season, then fanned 12 batters over 7 1/3 scoreless innings in five appearances in the championship series against Escogido.

"There's no question he has the stuff to be a very successful major league pitcher," assistant GM Chuck LaMar told the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal. "He was able to come up last year and show the arm strength, especially from the left side, that can propel him to win a job. Now he's got to do it on a consistent basis."

If everyone is healthy - and assuming Kyle Kendrick or Jamie Moyer opens as the number five starter - Lidge, Ryan Madson, Romero, Chad Durbin and veteran newcomers Danys Baez and Jose Contreras will take spots in the bullpen. But Romero is the only lefty, creating an opening for either Bastardo or Sergio Escalona to claim the final job.

Bastardo earned the playoff roster spot over Escalona, although he made only two appearances and faced two batters. Escalona, who had a 4.61 ERA in 14 games for the Phillies last season, struggled in the Venezuelan winter league, posting a 10.80 ERA and walking 11 batters in 10 innings.

This winter, the Phillies wanted Bastardo to continue developing his breaking ball. After being called up in June, he threw his fastball 73.8 percent of the time. And even though the Phillies view him exclusively as a reliever (five of his six regular-season appearances last year were starts), he still needs a more reliable secondary pitch.

"It's going to come down to having more than that fastball," LaMar said. "Right now, he needs to continue to work on his breaking ball. It was great to see what he did this winter, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he performs in spring training."

News, notes and quotes

- Roy Halladay reportedly has been spending his mornings working out at the Phillies' spring training complex in Clearwater, Fla., no surprise given he lives a few miles away in Odessa, Fla.

- Count catcher Carlos Ruiz among those most interested to meet the new ace.

"Last year, I saw him on the highlights, and he's got some great stuff," Ruiz said. "I can't wait to catch him and see it for myself."

Chase Utley added, "Everyone I've talked to who has played with him or against him has nothing but good things to say. His preparation is off the charts. He's a workhorse."

- Oscar Villarreal, who didn't pitch last season after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery, agreed to a minor league contract that doesn't include a spot in major league camp, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. According to Amaro, Villarreal is still rehabbing from the operation he had last April.

In 258 career games (five starts), Villarreal is 24-15 with a 3.86 ERA. He posted a 5.02 ERA in 35 games for Houston in 2008, and he went 9-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 58 appearances for Atlanta in 2006.

The Phillies recently have signed several players with major league experience to minor league contracts, including OF Freddy Guzman, OF Dewayne Wise, INF Cody Ransom, SS Wilson Valdez, RHP Ryan Vogelsong, RHP Brandon Duckworth and RHP Jason Standridge.

- Center fielder Tyson Gillies wasn't the most highly touted player acquired from the Mariners in the December trade for LHP Cliff Lee, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said he was central to the deal. Gillies, 21, batted .341 with nine homers, 42 RBI, 104 runs and a league-leading 44 stolen bases in 124 games last year at Class-A High Desert. He's expected to open this season at Double-A Reading.

Gillies also is legally deaf, with only 50 percent hearing in his right ear and 30 percent in his left. He wears hearing aids.

"He's kind of a special guy as far as his makeup is concerned," said Amaro, who has compared Gillies' baseball ability to CF Shane Victorino's. "The guy has obviously overcome some obstacles. We're pretty pleased to have him because he was a very important part of the deal."

The numbers game...12  Games the Phillies will have televised nationally this season; nine Saturday games on Fox and three Sunday games on ESPN.

He said what?  "How many All-Stars do we have now? We had five last year. (New third baseman Placido) Polanco was one. Halladay was another. You start adding All-Star-caliber players, it's obvious you're going to increase your core group." - GM Ruben Amaro Jr., on the Phillies' expanding nucleus of players.

Antonio Bastardo's major league stats
Year Tm W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9
2009 PHI 2 3 6.46 6 5 23.2 26 18 17 4 9 19 1.479 9.9 3.4 7.2

Antonio Bastardo's minor league stats

Year Tm W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9
2006 Phillies 1 2 3.91 9 2 23.0 20 16 10 1 14 27 1.478 7.8 5.5 10.6
2007 Clearwater 1 0 7.20 1 1 5.0 5 4 4 0 3 12 1.600 9.0 5.4 21.6
2007 Lakewood 9 0 1.87 15 15 91.2 63 23 19 3 42 98 1.145 6.2 4.1 9.6
2007 2 Teams 10 0 2.14 16 16 96.2 68 27 23 3 45 110 1.169 6.3 4.2 10.2
2008 Clearwater 2 0 1.17 5 5 30.2 20 4 4 2 10 47 0.978 5.9 2.9 13.8
2008 Reading 2 5 3.76 14 14 67.0 56 35 28 13 37 62 1.388 7.5 5.0 8.3
2008 2 Teams 4 5 2.95 19 19 97.2 76 39 32 15 47 109 1.259 7.0 4.3 10.0
2009 Clearwater 0 0 27.00 1 0 1.0 4 3 3 0 0 0 4.000 36.0 0.0 0.0
2009 Reading 2 2 1.75 11 5 36.0 22 7 7 1 7 41 0.806 5.5 1.8 10.2
2009 Lehigh Valley 1 0 2.08 2 2 13.0 11 3 3 1 3 12 1.077 7.6 2.1 8.3
2009 Phillies 0 0 0.00 3 2 4.1 2 1 0 0 2 3 0.923 4.2 4.2 6.2
2009 4 Teams 3 2 2.15 17 9 54.1 39 14 13 2 12 56 0.939 6.5 2.0 9.3
Minor League Totals 18 9 2.58 61 46 271.2 203 96 78 21 118 302 1.182 6.7 3.9 10.0


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