One of the Philadelphia Phillies‘ biggest weaknesses in 2012 was their bullpen, and even though they showed signs of life in the second half of the season, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. knew it was a spot he wanted to upgrade.
The bullpen has done very little thus far to make anybody believe it’s going to be any better in 2013. The bullpen could not put the clamps down on the Kansas City Royals on Friday afternoon, as the visitors scored 13 consecutive runs after falling behind 4-0.
Kyle Kendrick left the game in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and a 4-2 lead, but Jeremy Horst gave up a bases-clearing triple to allow the Royals to jump in front 5-4.
In the seventh, Horst left the game after loading the bases and failing to record an out. Chad Durbin entered, but allowed a sacrifice fly and then walked Jeff Francoeur before allowing a bases-clearing triple of his own.
Raul Valdes was battered as well, allowing four runs in his two innings of relief, and the Phillies went on to lose their home opener 13-4.
In Monday’s opener in Atlanta, Cole Hamels did not pitch well, leaving the game trailing 5-3 after five innings. Durbin had two runs charged to his ledger after struggling in that game, and the Phillies ended up losing a close 7-5 game.
The bullpen also allowed four runs in Wednesday’s loss to Atlanta.
Yes, it would be easy to just go ahead and say it’s early and it’s only been four games. On the other hand, after the struggles the team had with last year’s bullpen, this is not the way they wanted to begin 2013. There are some arms in the minor leagues that the team would not hesitate to bring up if this pattern continues.
What may be most concerning is that a veteran like Durbin is only hitting 86 miles per hour on the gun, seemingly topping out around 88 today. If that’s all Durbin can muster out of his right arm, he’s going to scuffle.
Horst’s struggles are troubling because he didn’t have a crisp spring, and it took him a few weeks to get going. Valdes can only hope this was a bad apple of an outing.
For now, there are a few hours to take a breath and move on from this type of performance. If the struggles continue, however, the Phillies bullpen of 2013 will have some people looking back at last April and thinking it’s Groundhog Day.