Phillies Stay or Go: Antonio Bastardo

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Phillies Stay or Go: Antonio Bastardo

The Phillies' first losing season since 2002 is sure to bring wholesale changes in the offseason. But who should stay and who should go? Over the next two weeks, we're asking that very question and putting players under the microscope.

Wednesday, we examined Kevin Frandsen (see story), and today we take a look at a bullpen arm that let the team down in 2013:

Antonio Bastardo
Position: Left-handed relief pitcher
Status: Arbitration eligible; completed a one-year, $1.4 million deal in 2013

Signature game of 2013
Bastardo saved two games in 2013, but they were nothing special. Bastardo worked 10 games with no rest and didn’t bounce back too great, either. However, give Bastardo a day or two between outings and he was virtually unhittable. Opponents went 19 for 89 against the lefty when he worked with one or two days of rest, with a 2.10 ERA in 26 games.

Season as a whole
The numbers were not terrible — 3-2, two saves, 2.32 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings — but Bastardo’s season will be remembered for one event: the 50-game suspension for his role in baseball’s Biogenesis scandal. The suspension snuck up on the Phillies and left general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel scrambling when the announcement came. If Bastardo knew something was coming, he didn’t clue in the Phillies or his teammates.

Otherwise, Bastardo was more efficient and threw more strikes than at any point in his career. He threw nearly 70 percent of his first pitches for strikes. He also allowed just two out of 15 inherited runners to score and was on a streak in which he did not allow a run in nine of 10 games before being suspended.

Stay or go
Typically, a reliever on pace to appear in 60-plus games for the third straight season is the type of pitcher a team needs and wants. A 28-year-old left-hander with that resume is even better. Bastardo is young and experienced and still moving into his prime.

But he really let the Phillies down over the last stretch of the season. Will he be dependable in the future? Carlos Ruiz, Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen have served suspensions and come back to be model teammates. There is nothing to suggest that Bastardo will be a problem in the future, and for a bargain salary, he might be worth the risk.

What they're saying ...
“I talked with him the night before, and he said there may be something that goes on here. That was the only real heads-up I had. I don’t think the player has to tell us anything. He mentioned to me that something might be going on Sunday ... so I had an idea that something might be going on.”
--Ruben Amaro Jr. on Bastardo’s suspension, Aug. 5

“I was totally surprised. It caught me off guard. He plays a big role in our bullpen, but at the same time I go along with our organization. There’s rules and guidelines MLB has, and I think you have to abide by those. We’ll see where he is velocity-wise and command-wise in spring training, and he’ll probably get more innings than he usually gets. That will tell more about him.”
--Charlie Manuel on Bastardo’s suspension, Aug. 5

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the two were growing up in Cuba. They traveled together to Venezuela for a youth tournament.

Soler said Fernandez's ability was obvious, right from the start.

"Since he was a child, since we were kids, I knew he had something," Soler said through a translator. "He had a talent. It was very impressive."

Fernandez's death in a boating accident at the age of 24 cast a dark shadow over the major leagues on Sunday. Miami's home game against Atlanta was canceled, and several ballparks observed moments of silence. Wrigley Field's iconic hand-operated scoreboard displayed Fernandez's No. 16 in its pitching column next to Miami.

But the loss of Fernandez was felt most acutely in baseball's growing Cuban community.

"He was one of those guys that everybody loved," St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena said. "He was one of those guys that everybody knew exactly what he meant to our community. For us, it's a big, big loss. It's one of those things where our thoughts and prayers are obviously with his family, the Marlins' organization and the fans. But it gets a little bit closer because he was part of our Cuban family."

There were 23 Cubans on opening-day major league rosters this year, an increase of five over last season and the most since the commissioner's office began releasing data in 1995. Many of the players share similar stories when it comes to their perilous journey from the communist country to the majors, and the difficulty of adjusting to life in the United States.

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was unsuccessful in his first three attempts to defect, and spent several months in prison. At 15, Fernandez and his mother finally made it to Mexico, and were reunited in Florida with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier.

He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and quickly turned into one of the majors' top pitchers.

"How he was on the mound was a reflection of him," Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "A guy who had a lot of fun, was himself. A very talkative guy, he would come into the room and you'd know he was in the room. Never big-leagued anyone, very professional. No matter what, he would talk to you about hitting, because he thought he was the best hitter, and he (would) talk to you about pitching, because he thought he was the best pitcher."

Alonso said Fernandez's death was "a big-time shock." Yasiel Puig used torn pieces of white athletic tape to display Fernandez's jersey on the wall in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, who had known Fernandez since they were little kids, declined an interview request through a team spokeswoman.

"We Cuban players know each other well and all of us have a great relationship," Pena said. "For us, it's devastating news when we woke up. We were sending text messages to each other and we were showing support. It's something that obviously nobody expects."

Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year, also was beloved for his stature in the Cuban community in Miami.

"He was a great humanitarian," Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman said through a translator. "He gave a lot to the community and I think that's why he got a lot of respect from the community in terms of what a great person he was and always giving, in terms of always willing to help out in whatever way he can to try to better and progress within the community someone that perhaps wasn't as fortunate as he was."

The 28-year-old Chapman lives in the Miami-area in the offseason. He said he spent some time with Fernandez while he was home.

"He would come by my house. I would go by his," Chapman said. "We would have long conversations. We would talk a lot. We spent a lot of good amount of time together. It was very special for me."

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

NEW YORK — The clubhouse mood following the Phillies17-0 loss to the Mets Sunday was somber, in part because of the disastrous game that had just wrapped up, but also because of the tragic news of Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death in a boating accident early Sunday morning.

“It was rough. People are devastated. I didn’t even know him and I was crushed,” Phillies starter Jake Thompson said. “I can only imagine how that clubhouse feels. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to deal with something of that magnitude.”

Both teams paused for a moment of silence before Sunday’s game and the Mets taped a jersey bearing Fernandez’s name and number onto their dugout wall.

“This morning, that was quite a surprise,” manager Pete Mackanin said of the atmosphere of the day. “I don’t think it affected the players once the game started. It was such bad news this morning that everybody was kind of melancholy.”

Fernandez had built a strong track record against the Phillies in his young career, amassing a 2.88 ERA in six starts.

“It’s kind of cliché to say but you look at the start of his career and he could have been a Hall of Famer,” Thompson said.

Asked how he would remember facing Fernandez, Mackanin was succinct.

“He was a helluva pitcher,” he said.

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