Pitching Competition

00extra lockers

The lockers in the empty clubhouse at Bright House Field are no longer empty.  Yep, the equipment truck made the 1,058-mile journey from Citizens Bank Park to Clearwater and was unloaded on Sunday. Happy Valentine’s Day.

With 66 players coming to camp (so far), Frank Coppenbarger, Director of Team Travel and Clubhouse Services, had portable, additional lockers built and placed in the middle of the south end of the clubhouse.

Mound Competition
According to the Merriman-Webster dictionary, competition is the act or process of trying to get or win something (such as a prize or a higher level of success) that someone else is also trying to get or win.

They’ll be plenty of competition in Clearwater leading up to Cincinnati.  LH Matt Harrison, recovering from a bad back, and Mario Hollands had Tommy John surgery last season and they will be on a rehab program. That makes 35 pitchers in competition. By the April 4 season opener in Cincinnati that number will be down to 11-12.

A year ago, 14 different pitchers started for the Phillies. Their ERA was 5.23, second highest in the NL and the team’s worst since 6.15 in 1930. Their 38 wins were the majors’ lowest.

Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, two impressive young arms from last season, are expected to keep their spots in the rotation. Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, a pair of new veterans, will be two other starters.

After that, it’s open, wide open. RH Alex Asher, RH David Buchanan, RH Severino Gonzalez, RH Chris Leroux, LH Adam Morgan, LH Brett Oberholtzer and RH Vincent Valesquez have all pitched in the majors. Looking to make impressions are RH Mark Appel, RH Zach Eflin and RH Jake Thompson, three young guns.

Gentlemen, as they say in NASCAR, start your engines.

Once upon a long time ago, if you wound up in the bullpen, you weren’t very good. The game as evolved to include closers, set-up guys, situational arms, one-inning pitchers and a deep bullpens.  Witness the World Series trophy in Kansas City.

Last month ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark wrote an in-depth article, “What is fueling baseball’s Bullpen Mania?”  A very insightful article by Jayson, one baseball’s best writers.

Some numbers he pointed out: 2,003 times starting pitchers failed to make it through the sixth inning last season, the most in the history of baseball. (Geez, the Phillies may have been the ring-leader).  And, 15,095 pitching changes. That’s a lot of TV commercials.

If you count Jeff Francoeur, 16 relievers pitched for the Phillies last season.  Three recorded saves, Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles and Luis Garcia.

So, who will the closer this year?

Plenty of competition. Andrew Bailey, Ernesto Frieri, Garcia, David Hernandez, Frank Herrmann, Yoervis Medina, Edward Mujica and James Russell have all recorded saves in the bigs.  Bailey, Frieri, Hernandez and Mujica have the most experience at the back end of the pen.

Garcia, Jeanmar Gomez and Hernandez will occupy three of the seats in the bullpen.  The others will be wide open.  Will there be two lefties in the pen?  Or, one? Or, none?

Getting game exposure for all these arms in spring training may be challenging.  Somehow it will all be sorted out.  A lot of eyes will be focused on the pitchers. It all starts when pitchers step on the seven warm-up mounds at Carpenter Complex on Thursday morning.

Phun Fact
Speaking of pitching numbers.  40 years ago, the Phillies won their first division title. They used 11 pitchers all season long.  That’s right, 11. Randy Lerch was the 11th and he pitched in one game, three innings of relief in game #157 on September 27.  Times have changed.



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