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Improved Bullpen Key to Winning

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Phillies owe much of their early April success to bullpen

By JARED BYRD

So far, the Phillies are off to a good start with 5 wins and 2 losses, which is probably better than most fans expected. A huge part of that success has been the contributions made by their bullpen. However, one thing that may come back to haunt the Phils later this season is the overuse of their relievers. For the most part, they have performed well, but the longest outing for any Phillies starting pitcher this season has been 7 innings, meaning that the bullpen has pitched at least 2 innings in every game in 2001.

What makes the overuse of the bullpen strange is that the starting pitchers have kept the Phillies in each game they've played, often leaving with a lead, with the game tied, or trailing by only several runs, well within range of catching up and defeating the opposition.

Here's a look at how the Phils relievers have fared this year:

Jose Mesa: Has reverted to the form that made him so dominant in Cleveland, saving two games. His only blown save on Opening Day came as a result of a balk, his first balk since 1993. The Phils came back to eventually win that game, and Mesa allowed only one run, the only run he has given up this season.

Ricky Bottalico: After his shoulder injury, his stops in St. Louis and Kansas City, and a horrible spring training, the future didn't look bright for Ricky. But he has been effective, allowing no runs so far.

Amaury Telemaco: Who can forget his heroics on Opening Day, pitching four emergency shutout innings while scoring the winning run? He will be used as a long reliever, as well as the fifth starter. His first start will be on April 10 vs. Florida.

Wayne Gomes: After being threatened to be sent down to the minor leagues if he had a bad spring training, Gomes earned a spot on the roster. He has pitched four shutout innings and has finally gained control of his pitches, something he lacked in 2000.

Vicente Padilla: Yes, he throws hard. But he also gives up a lot of hits and walks, and he has only been effective occasionally (though not this season). It's probably best not to bring him into a close game, especially with runners on (just ask Omar Daal).

Rheal Cormier: The least used of the bullpen crew, Cormier should be well rested after missing most of spring training with several injuries. It's difficult to judge his performance this year because of this, but in his one appearance this year, he wasn't overwhelming.

Eddie Oropesa: The 29-year-old lefthander from Cuba did a great job in spring training (no earned runs), and he is viewed as a situational lefthander whose pitching delivery can fool a lot of hitters. His only bad outing came when Bowa used him in a full inning of relief in Miami.

Chris Brock: Like Telemaco and the injured Cliff Politte, he is seen as a spot starter and long reliever. One problem: he surrenders too many home runs. He hasn't given up one yet this year, but it won't be long before he does.

The fact that Bowa has 12 pitchers on his roster as opposed to 11 may make the overuse of the bullpen slightly more bearable. But sooner or later, the starters are going to have to step up to show they can pitch nine innings, or Bowa will have to show more confidence in them.

E-mail Jared Byrd at jbyrd002@yahoo.com.

This article was written April 8, 2001. It first appeared on The Buzzerbeaters' web site (http://www.the buzzerbeaters.com).

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