PHILADELPHIA -- It is no secret the Phillies are looking for bullpen help. They say it is their top priority.
They are looking at left-handers like Hisanori Takahashi, Pedro Feliciano, Brian Fuentes and Arthur Rhodes. They also could bring back right-hander Chad Durbin.
But Philadelphia also will need help from relief pitchers already in the organization, like Antonio Bastardo, Scott Mathieson, David Herndon and Mike Zagurski. Right-hander Justin De Fratus fits that bill, too. The Phillies must place De Fratus on the 40-man roster by Friday's midnight ET deadline to avoid exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft, and they will.
Philadelphia has other players they must protect or risk losing them. The most notable include Joe Savery, Matt Rizzotti and D'Arby Myers. Savery is being converted from a pitcher to a hitter, so he is unlikely to be protected. Rizzotti is a talented hitter, but his path to the big leagues is blocked by Ryan Howard. Myers was a fourth-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft who had a .678 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) last season with Class A Clearwater.
De Fratus, an 11th-round pick in 2007, certainly is worth watching next year. He went a combined 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 49 appearances with Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading and has struck out 11 in seven scoreless innings in the Arizona Fall League.
"He hasn't had a chance to perform in front of Charlie [Manuel], Rich [Dubee] and the Major League staff," assistant general manager Chuck LaMar said recently. "I think he's going to open up some eyes. I think he's going to get people's attention in Spring Training with not only his physical ability, but how confidently he goes about his business. Whether he's ready or not is yet to be seen. Only time will tell that, but I think he'll at least be on the radar screen by the end of Spring Training.
"He's been a prospect in our minds [since] the day he showed up. He's always had an outstanding body, arm action and showed good velocity. But this year he's really taken a giant leap forward. He competed extremely well in the Florida State League. We moved him up to Double-A. He handled that situation very well. He went to Team USA [in the Pan American Qualifying Tournament] and handled that pressure and responsibility. Then he went to the Arizona Fall League and made their All-Star team. He just continues to progress. He's definitely one of the best pitching prospects in our upper Minor Leagues."
Rizzotti is interesting because of the numbers he has put up offensively. He hit a combined .343 with 36 doubles, one triple, 17 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .985 OPS in 420 at-bats with Clearwater, Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is hitting .344 with two doubles, 12 RBIs and a .500 on-base percentage in the AFL.
Rizzotti is not a candidate to move positions, which would have given him a better opportunity to reach the big leagues with the Phillies.
"He's continued to hit," LaMar said. "His challenges are improving defensively. His defensive skills are behind his offensive skills. He's got to continue to develop defensively if he's going to play at the Major League level. And he's got to get to his power. He's a big, strong kid. He can put the bat on the ball. He hangs in tough against left-handed pitching for a left-handed hitter. All those things seem to be in place, but he's got to get to some of his power."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.