After two-year odyssey, Durbin a Phillie again

After two-year odyssey, Durbin a Phillie again

January 29, 2013, 5:15 pm
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Chad Durbin never wanted to leave the Phillies in the first place.

The versatile right-hander who won a World Series with the Phils in 2008 and finished 36 games for them over three seasons hit free agency after the 2010 season, and the Phillies didn’t have the strong interest or ability to re-sign him after spending $120 million on Cliff Lee and $5.5 million on Jose Contreras.

Oddly enough, it took Durbin until March 1 that offseason to find a contract with the Cleveland Indians. But after a shaky year in the AL and a resurgent one in Atlanta, Durbin is back in the clubhouse that feels like home.

“Since 2011 we wanted to come back,” Durbin said Tuesday, after being added to the Phillies' 40-man roster in place of J.C. Ramirez, who was designated for assignment. “It didn’t work out ... but this year it managed to.

“I like playing here. I like the way the organization treats its players and people. I like the way it feels [at Citizens Bank Park]. And just a bunch of good guys in the clubhouse. A lot of teams were interested. We kind of had in the back of our mind we wanted to be here. And as soon as [GM] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] and [assistant GM] Scott Proefrock made it work out, it moved pretty quickly once we decided.”

Durbin’s role with the Phillies will be similar to what it was from 2008-10, when he recorded a 3.62 ERA and struck out 7.5 batters per nine innings. He was a Swiss army knife out of the ‘pen then, and he figures to be one again in 2013, pitching in any role that helps get the ball to setup man Mike Adams and closer Jonathan Papelbon, an eighth-ninth inning combination Durbin referred to as “special.”

Durbin’s two best assets are his stamina – he’s recorded more than three outs in 112 of his 365 career relief appearances – and his ability to stifle right-handed hitting (.206 batting average against last season).

The 35-year-old was used as a righty specialist for the Braves last season. Of his career-high 76 appearances, 14 were one-batter-and-done outings. Thirty saw him record one or two outs.

“I think if nothing else, the light workload would help me with the ability to go that route this year,” Durbin said of pitching more than an inning. “Throw a couple extra innings in spring training to get ready for it. But I’m more than capable, still throw the same pitches.”

Durbin’s fastball-cutter-curveball-changeup repertoire betrayed him in two of the last five seasons. In 2009 he had no control for the Phillies, walking 47 batters in 69 2/3 innings. In 2011 for the Indians, he had a 5.53 ERA. But the control issue has evened out, as Durbin’s walk rate has dropped from 6.1-per-nine in 2009 to 3.7 the last three seasons.

And as for that anomalous 2011 with the Indians?

“I was throwing in eight-run, nine-run games in the fourth of fifth inning in front of 10,000 people,” Durbin recalled. “Without adrenaline, a lot of your pitches don’t do the same thing.”

The 2012 Phillies know all about that. They were 13 games below .500 by the All-Star break and played plenty of meaningless summer games, even if a late run provided some semblance of a postseason chance.

Durbin sees a slight benefit in last year’s 81-81 finish, though.

“Without a healthy team, I don’t think any team – no matter how talented – can go out there and win year after year after year. If nothing else it was a good year for the team to rest," he said. "They didn’t have to play in October, which stinks when you really take a good look at that. But it is a good year to rest.

“It feels different than if the team did win the division, but it was bound to happen at some point. Even the Braves lost after that run (from 1991-2005). The league turns over and you get back after it.”

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