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Brian Fuentes would have been a nice fit in the Phillies' bullpen

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

When the Twins acquired left-hander Brian Fuentes from Los Angeles through waivers on Friday, I couldn't help but scratch my head and wonder if the Phillies  even tried to land him. Fuentes was only acquired for a player to be named. Although he will be primarily used as a setup man to Matt Capps in Minnesota, Fuentes led the majors with 48 saves in 2009. This gives the Twins plenty of depth in the back end of their pen that probably no team in the majors has.

The Phillies reportedly tried to acquire Fuentes in 2008 when the team was looking for another EXPERIENCED lefty to compliment J.C. Romero. The Rockies however, are notoriously difficult when trying to trade their players and the deal never materialized.

The last time I looked over in the Phillies' bullpen, an up and down Romero and an unproven as well as inconsistent Antonio Bastardo were their only two lefty relievers as the pennant race is upon us.

The bullpen has actually held its own as of late. Chad Durbin  pitched a gutsy two innings for the win on Friday night, Ryan Madson seems to be finding his groove, Jose Contreras hasn't given up a run in several weeks, and Brad Lidge (despite Friday night's "hiccup") had saved seven straight games, and rebounded nicely Saturday afternoon with a 1-2-3 save against the Padres. Besides Lidge (which is usually a work in progress), the biggest question mark in the pen is coming from the leftties. Romero, the 2008 World Series hero whose troubles have been well documented over the last two seasons, is effective at times, but historically has control issues.

Bastardo, who was recalled when Danys Baez was "placed" on the disabled list, makes Romero look like Greg Maddux as far as his control goes. The Phillies are still high on Bastardo. Probably more so than the fans are. Did you feel very comfortable having Bastardo as the Phillies' other lefty in the Phils 2009 NLDS roster? I know, he struck out Jason Giambi with the bases loaded in Game Two of that series. However, you were holding your breath the entire time and don't deny it. If the Phillies are worried that Fuentes would take the place of David Herndon on the roster, they need to get their head examined and "place" him on the disabled list along with Baez (being that Herndon was acquired in the Rule 5 draft, you will lose him if you have to send him down to the minors). If anything, he would give the Phillies insurance if Lidge were to fall into the "abyss" yet again..............

Final Thought:

Fuentes is a seasoned veteran with World Series experience. Although the Red Sox did beat him up badly iBrian Fuentes photo: Ted S. Warren- Associated Pressn the 2007 Fall Classic, I'll gladly take my chances with him on my roster. The Twins will pickup just $1.5 million of Fuentes' $9 million dollar salary for the rest of 2010. Not a bad price by any means. Fuentes only has a guaranteed contract for the rest of this year and a $9 million option for 2011 if he finishes 55 games this season (he is not even close). The addition of Fuentes along with setup man Matt Guerrier and Capps make Minnesota incredibly scary in the 2010 playoffs if they can nail down the AL Central. 

If the Phillies' hitting comes around, and their bullpen holds up, this team does not have many holes and should be considered a World Series favorite if they make the playoffs. Ruben Amaro acquired Roy Oswalt and landed a veteran right-handed bat in Mike Sweeney for the bench. They are missing one more piece to this puzzle. Why stop now? Another experienced veteran in the bullpen is a MUST come playoff time. Romero and Scott Eyre surrendered only three hits and one run in over ten innings pitched in the 2008 post season. They were as good as automatic.

Moreover, if the injury-prone Romero were to face another injury, Bastardo better find home plate and fast or the Phillies' chances of winning the World Series goes from a possibility to a long shot. Adrian Gonzalez, Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, and Joey Votto  are just some of the lefthanded bats the Phils could possibly face come October, and the lack of another proven lefty could cost this team dearly. I really, really, hope that the team didn't pass on Fuentes just because of $1.5 million. I don't run their books, but that relatively small price tag for one of the premiere relievers in the game could pay dividends if you win another championship.

In the meantime, Keep On Phightin.'

Quote of the week:

"He'd get hit."

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman explaining why he sat outfielder Nyjer Morgan (who intentionally made unnecessary contact with Cardinals catcher Brian Anderson at home plate Saturday night) Sunday afternoon. Rough week for the Nats.

 

Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's.

Contact Joe at jvallee@philly2philly.com