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Michael Schwimer: How Will the Philadelphia Phillies Relief Pitcher Fit Into the Team’s Plans for the Future?

Even though he didn’t have great success in 2011, Michael Schwimer quickly became one of my favorite players on the Philadelphia Phillies. I’m not quite sure what it is about him, but I really enjoy watching him pitch and I think he will have an important role on the bullpen over the next several seasons.

Schwimer is 6-foot-8 and like Michael Stutes, he’s older (26) than you would expect for a guy that just got called up. Schwimer pitched in just 14.1 major league innings last season, posting numbers that were underwhelming: 5.02 ERA and a 4.4 BB/9 rate.

Several things about Schwimer make me believe he will be successful though. Most importantly, he strikes out a high percentage of batters. Even though he doesn’t throw much faster than the low 90s, Schwimer struck out 16 batters in just 14.1 innings, a 10.0 K/9 rate. In Triple-A last year, Schwimer had incredible success, going 9-1 with a 1.86 ERA and an unbelievable 11.4 K/9 rate.

When he was called up, Schwimer was under the radar, although he had an interesting debut: His second major league pitch was blasted for a home run, although he then settled down and retired the next eight hitters, four of them on strikeouts. You may remember seeing Schwimer on ESPN’s Not Top 10 Plays for sporting the pink backpack that the newest member of the Phillies bullpen is required to wear.

He probably won’t make the 2012 Phillies coming out of camp, although he will be given every opportunity to do so. The Phillies just have too many established relievers, with Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, Jose Contreras, Kyle Kendrick, and Chad Qualls guaranteed spots on the team, and Dontrelle Willis, David Herndon, Joe Savery, Schwimer, and a slew of others fighting for any role they can get.

There will assuredly be injuries and Schwimer will get a chance to pitch for the Phillies in ’12. If he does well, he will stay. If he doesn’t do well, he won’t stay, but he’ll be given all the opportunities in the world. After all, this is the organization that kept Mike Zagurski around for six seasons, even though it was pretty clear he was nothing more than a Quadruple-A pitcher.

Schwimer struggled mightily against lefties in 2011, to the point that you could almost make a case for him as a ROOGY – a righty one-out guy. He held righties to a .172/.333/.241 mark while lefties blasted him for .400/.423/.700. His OPS against righties (.575) was twice as good as it was against lefties (1.143). Obviously Schwimer will have to settle down and learn to get lefties out, or he won’t last very long in the big leagues.

2012 won’t make or break Schwimer’s career. He’s still learning how to pitch in the big leagues. He will have growing pains but he will probably also have flashes of brilliance, as evidenced by his numbers last season. In the long run, I envision Schwimer at least working his way into an effective piece of the Phillies bullpen in 2013, 2014, and beyond.