May 15, 2013, 11:45 AM EDT
By the second out of the eighth inning yesterday, Antonio Bastardo had hit a wall, Mike Adams was likely unavailable, Chad Durbin wasn’t a fit for the circumstances and Jeremy Horst wasn’t a righty.
Due up with men on first and third and one out was Indians surprise slugger Mark Reynolds, who hit .301 with a 1.019 OPS and ML-leading eight home runs in the first month — also a righty.
In other words, this was clearly Phillippe Aumont’s spot. At least it used to be.
Instead, Justin De Fratus entered, as he did on Sunday, the very first day he was called up.
Aumont hasn’t thrown since May 9.
If that seems like a clear intimation of the organization’s feelings on the two, that’s because it likely is.
The Phillies can play wait and see until May 21, when the rotation must expand back to five starters. But with four relievers (Durbin, Bastardo, Adams, Papelbon) due guaranteed money and only three of (Bastardo, Horst and Raul Valdes) throwing left-handed, it stands to reason that the table is set for Aumont to be optioned.
Especially since the 25-year-old De Fratus was so effective. He popped up Reynolds on two pitches, helping the Phillies carry a then two-run lead to Jonathan Papelbon to return the favor two weeks to the day that the Indians laid on a 48-hour walloping in Cleveland. The night of his 2013 debut, De Fratus gassed Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the ninth to send a tie game to extras of a road trip-wrapping win, setting the table for last night.
It’s only two appearances, but it’s twice that De Fratus has done what’s expected: get outs.
You can’t say the same about Aumont. Though he’s punched a 2.45 ERA this year, he’s been charged with three losses in 13 outings. Bastardo had only two more in 65 appearances during his train wrecky 2012. Worse, with as many walks (7) as strikeouts so far, Aumont’s yet to be able to demonstrate he can consistently command his 97 m.p.h. heat, which, it stands to reason, is the only reason he’s here.
De Fratus, meanwhile, does seem to have a handle on his 94-96 m.p.h. fastball, which would replace Aumont as second on the relief staff, the owners of the second-slowest average fastball velocity in baseball. This year’s samples are too small for comparison. But last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the De Fratus struck out 9.14 per nine for a 7.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. De Fratus, frankly, is exactly what this bullpen needs.
If not for an elbow strain (which, as he put it jokingly to me, was caused by being “young and stupid” with his offseason throwing program in 2012 and trying to ratchet it up before he was ready, as opposed to some serious problem caused by acute stress or shoddy mechanics), De Fratus may have already been here.
Though the way it’s looking now, De Fratus may be here to stay.
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