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Phillies’ young arms of Worley,Bastardo and Stutes are impressive, and their future looks promising

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

Roy Oswalt’s back is shot, and his status for 2011 and the rest of his career is uncertain
 
Joe Blanton is injured and still feeling tightness
 
Closer Brad Lidge hasn’t thrown a pitch all season

Jose Contreras has now been on the disabled list twice in 2011

Third-in-command closer Ryan Madson is now on the disabled list with a hand contusion

Just how are the Phillies surviving?

You need to look no further than the team’s young guns. Whether it’s the starting rotation or the bullpen, Vance Worley,Vance Worley: www.reclinergm.com Michael Stutes, and Antonio Bastardo  have effectively held down the fort in the absence of the team's veterans.

Worley stymied the Red Sox offense Wednesday night, allowing just one run over seven strong innings. Worley, whose command is sometimes an issue, threw strikes and allowed just five hits to the Red Sox- the best offense in the majors so far this season.

With Blanton only recently starting to throw on the side and Oswalt’s season in question, the Phils will need to count on Worley to hold down the fort for however long it takes. A game like Wednesday night can only improve a rookie’s confidence, so expect good things from him going forward in 2011.

While the Phillies got a glimpse of Worley last September, the biggest pitching surprise this season has to be rookie Stutes, who shut down Boston in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game.  Stutes had a great Spring Training, and his 2.81 ERA along with his 3-0 record and five holds have helped ease the loss of replacement closer Jose Contreras, who has battled several arm injuries in 2011. Antonio Bastardo photo: Getty Images

With injuries to Lidge, Contreras, and now Madson, the Phillies were forced to go to their fourth-in-command closer Bastardo, who also retired the Red Sox in order Wednesday night. Bastardo has been up and down with the big club since 2009. His stuff was never a question, only his control. However, his control has improved (13 walks in 29 innings pitched going into Thursday’s game), and his emergence made veteran J.C. Romero expendable. Going into Thursday’s game, Bastardo’s ERA is a microscopic 0.93.

The performance of the Phillies’ young guns is not only encouraging for 2011, but it also bodes well for the future of this team. With an inconsistent Phillies offense looking older by the second, it’s apparent that the Phils will continue to be a pitching dominant team for at least the next few seasons. With Oswalt most likely gone after this season and an aging Contreras battling multiple ailments (just how old IS he anyway?), Stutes figures to be a mainstay in the Phillies’ pen for years to come.

Worley on the other hand, has been the talk of recent trade rumors. It’s a foregone conclusion that a righthanded bat is needed for this team to even think about winning the World Series. The Giants won it all with pitching last year, but excluding them, can you name more than three teams in the last 30 years who have won a World Series exclusively on their pitching? The 1995 Braves, the 2005 White Sox, and after that it’s a stretch.

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The only major issue that could come into question with Worley, Bastado and Stutes is their workload. A major league season is longer than any season in Triple-A. Come playoff time, you don’t want these guys to be toast, which is always a possibility. In the meantime, Where would the Phillies be this year without Michael Stutes? Photo:www.lehighvalleylive.com Blanton and Oswalt are still question marks, but Lidge’s rehab has looked encouraging and Contreras and Madson are on the mend. Charlie Manuel needs to properly balance the workload of his three young guns while his injured pitchers return.

Not to jump too far ahead, but it will be very interesting how the young three will respond to playoff pressure, which is literally a whole new ball game. Barring any unforseen circumstances, Stutes and Bastardo will make the (possible, the Phils haven’t won anything yet) post season roster come October. Worley could make the cut as a long man or even a fourth starter depending on the health and/or performance of Blanton and/or Oswalt. Of the three, only Bastardo has playoff experience in 2009 and 2010 (His strikeout against Jason Giambi in Game Two of the 2009 NLDS vs. Colorado was quite impressive).

Bottom line: Despite dropping the last game to the Red Sox, it was a great series for the Phillies. They have proven that they are a force to be reckoned with not only in the National League, but all of MLB for that matter.

To be fair, Phillies’ starters faced the likes of Drew Sutton, Josh Reddick, and Darnell McDonald during this series along with Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. Moreover, Carl Crawford is out with a hamstring injury. This isn’t Boston’s healthiest or most effective lineup, but you use what you have. The Phillies should know. They redefine the term ‘banged up.’ A win is a win, and the Phillies won a series against Boston for the first time since 2003. Jon Lester threw a great game, but I don’t care what anyone says: the Phils still need another bat.

In the meantime, Keep on Phightin'! 

 

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

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