The Phillies are now 30-20 and have their largest lead in the NL East race of the season at 2.5 games.
Raul Ibanez is playing like a freaking machine, Ryan Howard is heating up, Antonio Bastardo just had a brilliant debut, Brad Lidge had four saves in four games and Cole Hamels is pitching like Cole Hamels.
Can you believe that this team is about to get better, without having made any trades yet?
When J.C. Romero suits up and takes his place in the bullpen tonight, the Phillies will once again have the top bullpen in the National League. Sure, maybe Romero will need a game or two to fully get back in the swing of things (and then again, maybe he won't) so a slip up in one of his first appearances in the major leagues in 2009 shouldn't alarm anyone.
But all accounts seem to indicate that Romero is ready to go—and if he is then watch out.
If Charlie Manuel has Romero as an option out of the pen there will not be a need to shuffle his relievers as much as has happened so far this season. A year ago Romero took on the role of the seventh inning pitcher, acting as a set-up man to the set-up man. Scott Eyre, a trade acquisition, was used as a left handed specialist. Ryan Madson was the eight inning arm and Lidge naturally was the closer.
So what can we expect form the bullpen now?
This slot is Lidge's, no doubt. After some rocky appearances in the first month and a half Lidge has now recorded four straight saves in his four save opportunities. Unless he gets injured, Lidge will be in this role the entire season.
Madson made a name for himself last season as he really took to the concept of being the main set-up man in the eighth inning. He has done well in the role once again this season, and gives the Phillies one of the best eighth-inning arms in the National League.
Let us assume that the Phillies expect a minimum of six innings out of their starters. As long as the starting pitcher gets through six innings, the Philies will win most of their games because the bullpen starts to become lethal in the seventh inning.
Romero figures to be one of the first options out of the pen. If the situation calls for a right-handed pitcher, then expect Chad Durbin to be the first option.
Clay Condrey saw most of his action in games last year when the Phillies had a big lead. While he has been used in tighter situations so far this season, and has done well, I anticipate that Condrey will go back to being seldom used. Condrey, though, could be a good fit for extra innings as well.
That leaves Chan Ho Park and Jack Taschner. Taschner has not been a train wreck, but his 1.69 WHIP will keep the Phillies from using him in close games. Even more alarming is Park's 1.81 WHIP and 7.32 ERA.
Park has already been demoted from the starting rotation and I thought he would be a good fit in the bullpen. He has yet to play at the level I expected him to in relief, though. Taschner and Park should only be used in games in which the Phillies are either ahead by ten or down by ten.
I think the bullpen order seems pretty straight forward, but what do you think? Also, do you think the Phillies will make any roster moves, whether by trade, free agency, or minor league promotions specifically to change the bullpen?