Do Phils have anywhere to turn for bullpen help?

Do Phils have anywhere to turn for bullpen help?
April 24, 2014, 11:00 am
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Kevin Gregg and Joel Hanrahan are two relievers with late-inning experience still looking for work. (USA Today Images)

The Phillies need bullpen help. That is quite obvious. Their 5.64 relief ERA is worst in the majors and the 10 home runs allowed by the 'pen are most in the National League.

There have already been many nights like Wednesday, when all three relievers the Phils used allowed multiple hits in less than an inning of work. Jeff Manship, Mario Hollands and Shawn Camp -- not exactly a murderer's row of relief arms.

The Phillies currently have four bona fide talented arms in the bullpen: Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman. The issue is, all four have flaws.

Papelbon and Adams are experiencing diminished velocity. Papelbon's velocity has come back -- he's hit 92-93 mph regularly in his seven consecutive scoreless appearances -- so the overblown concerns over the closer have faded since the blown save in Texas.

Adams is hitting 90 mph with his fastball and 87 mph with his cutter, which could be all he needs. Adams spotted the cutter well in his second outing of the season at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, starting it on the outside corner. It looked like a strike leaving his hand but continued further outside and caused Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez to flail and look foolish. Adams can be effective throwing 87-90 because of his deceptiveness and movement. In two appearances, he's thrown a total of 14 pitches (10 strikes) and pitched two perfect innings with four groundouts.

Diekman and Bastardo ... same story as always. Great fastballs, sharp breaking balls, hard for lefties to pick up, but they don't always know where the ball is going. The duo was projected by ZiPS to walk 5.3 batters per nine innings this season and has lived up to those meager expectations by walking 12 batters in 22 1/3 innings.

Outside of those four arms, nobody in the bullpen has a stranglehold on a spot. Right now, those final relief spots are being filled by the rookie Hollands and the veterans Manship and Camp.

Is there anyone of substance to turn to for assistance?

Joel Hanrahan
This is the name that has come up most often not just for the Phillies, but for any major-league team that needs relief help.

Hanrahan, 32, is a former closer and setup man coming off of Tommy John surgery. In 2011-12 with the Pirates, he had a 2.24 ERA in 133 appearances with a strikeout per inning. As many as 20 teams have watched him throw and he reportedly is mulling several offers.

The Phils, though, don't seem to be a true fit. How can they justify spending several million dollars on a reliever coming off of surgery with all of the injuries their pitchers have suffered in recent years? The Phillies already have $20 million committed to Papelbon and Adams this season and they'd be entering a bidding war with Hanrahan.

Pass.

Kevin Gregg
Among the remaining free-agent relievers, Gregg is the only one worth considering. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound, 35-year-old is coming off his best season since 2008.

Gregg had a 3.48 ERA in 62 appearances in 2013 for the Cubs, with 56 strikeouts in 62 innings. His velocity has dropped a bit, from 92.2 mph in 2010-11 to 90.8 in 2013. But the Ks were still there for Gregg.

He'd come cheaper than Hanrahan and would at least give the Phillies an out-pitch out of the 'pen. Last year, Gregg's splitter induced whiffs 15 percent of the time, and his opponents batted .182 against his splitter and cutter.

A name to keep in mind.

Ryan Madson
Again, injury history, and I can't see the Phillies biting unless Madson is willing to take a very cheap salary or there is some level of certainty that he'll actually pitch.

Madson signed one-year deals with the Reds and Angels the last two years and never made a major-league appearance.

Ken Giles
Everyone wants to talk about the Phillies' 100 mph man, and I do think he'll be up at some point this season. But as soon as late April or early May?

Giles has pitched 10 innings at Reading with no earned runs, four hits and 19 strikeouts. The Phils do not want to rush a guy who's made eight appearances above Class A, but we're nearing the point where it couldn't hurt. Giles is 23, it's not like he's 19. And by all accounts he seems to have the temperament to pitch in the majors.

He could be exactly what the Phillies need, but what if he's promoted and fails? The risk exists of stunting his growth. The reward, though, seems to outweigh that risk.

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