Phillies make roster cuts as bullpen comes into focus

Phillies make roster cuts as bullpen comes into focus
March 17, 2013, 10:00 am
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CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies made several roster moves Sunday morning as the competition for bullpen jobs tightened.

Relievers Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus were optioned to Triple A while reliever Cesar Jimenez and infielder Josh Fields were reassigned to the minor-league camp.

Fifteen days before opening day, the Phillies now have 16 pitchers in camp, including three non-roster invitees.

The Phils’ five-man starting rotation is set: Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan.

The team will likely go with a seven-man bullpen. Four of those jobs are set: Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin. That leaves seven pitchers in the running for three bullpen jobs: Phillippe Aumont, Raul Valdes, Mike Stutes, Jeremy Horst, Aaron Cook, Rodrigo Lopez and Zach Miner.

Four of the seven remaining candidates are on the 40-man roster: Aumont, Valdes, Stutes and Horst.

Aumont and Horst came into camp as inside-trackers, but Valdes and Stutes have both pitched well. Horst, based on his work last season, could make the club as a second lefty behind Bastardo, but Valdes, another lefty has come on strong. He could be valuable because of his ability to pitch multiple innings. He pitched three shutout innings against the Yankees on Saturday.

Cook, Lopez and Miner are all non-roster guys. Cook and Lopez are both starters who could either go to Triple A or make the team as a long reliever. Miner can start or relieve.

Monday could be a very interesting day for the bullpen competition as Cook, Lopez, Horst, Stutes and Aumont are all scheduled to get work against the Braves at Disney World.

Diekman, 26, and De Fratus, 25, both had major-league time last season, and both have high upsides.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said De Fratus still needs to build arm strength after missing time last season with an elbow strain.

“His arm is a little behind right now,” Dubee said. “His breaking ball is a little too big. He’s aware of that.”

Diekman remains an intriguing talent, a lefthanded side-armer whose fastball reaches the mid-90s, but he’s still searching for consistency with his breaking ball and changeup. That will be worked on in the minors.

“He’s got to learn to pitch backwards,” Dubee said. “We want him throwing more changeups, use his changeup some to righties. We want him using first-pitch breaking balls so people can’t cheat on his fastball. And, again, he has to command all three.”

De Fratus pitched nine innings in camp, allowed 10 hits and six earned runs. He walked two and struck out four.

Diekman went 10 innings, allowed 12 hits, five runs, walked four and struck out 14.

•The Phillies play the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon in Clearwater.

Roy Halladay will start for the Phils. He got pounded for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in his last start so all eyes will be on him (see story).

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