Phillies shoring up bullpen

Phillies shoring up, organizing bullpen

PHILADELPHIA -- One of Phillies general manager Pat Gillick's main priorities this offseason was to improve the bullpen.

With Spring Training looming in more than a month, Gillick understands the sense of urgency.

"We're still looking at some things," Gillick said during the Phillies Winter Tour on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. "If there's someone else out there, we'll analyze it. We're always looking to improve if there's a way we can improve."

Obviously, Tom Gordon is the closer. Right-hander Ryan Madson is expected to fill the eighth-inning role, with left-hander Matt Smith being used primarily against left-handed hitters. There's also Geoff Geary and righty Antonio Alfonseca, who has agreed to a Minor League contract but has yet to take a physical because he is playing winter ball in in the Dominican Republic.

With Arthur Rhodes and Rick White not expected to return, the Phillies can choose from Eude Brito, Fabio Castro, Jim Ed Warden, Alfredo Simon or Anderson Garcia.

Madson said he has a lot of confidence in the team's bullpen.

"I think we can be very effective," said Madson, who recently avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract. "I think we have a lot of guys who now have a lot more experience. I think everyone learned from last season. The roles of the players don't matter as much as the execution. Every role is important.

"The sixth inning, seventh inning and eighth inning is just as important as the ninth inning. That's how we all feel. Nobody's bitter about pitching in a certain situation. The job just needs to get done. As long as we get guys out, that's what we need. That's the way it should be."

Madson should have a more defined role in 2007 after bouncing between the bullpen and the starting rotation last season. He went 11-9 with a 5.69 ERA and two saves in 50 games, 17 of which were starts. He was 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA as a reliever and finished second on the team in wins, third in innings pitched (134 1/3) and fourth in strikeouts (99).

Last season, Madson reveled in becoming a starter. It was a tough transition, one which came with some growing pains.

"Whatever they need me to do is fine with me," Madson said. "I had a couple of tough starts last season where I gave up a lot of homers and a lot of runs and I sort of lost my confidence and tried to change too much. I should have just chalked it up to a bad game or two.

"It looks like I'll be in the bullpen this season, which is fine. I want to do my job. I actually think it's an easier transition going from starting to the bullpen rather than the other way around. I really don't think it'll be a problem. I'm looking forward to Spring Training."

If Madson is indeed the eighth-inning pitcher, it will be something he's done before.

"When Billy Wagner was here, all the holds I got for him in the eighth inning were important," Madson said. "I never really realized how important until later. What I did realize was how important every role is. When you're called on, you have to get guys out and do your job."

That's exactly what Smith did last season after being acquired from the Yankees in the multi-player trade involving Bobby Abreu.

Smith was terrific in his short stint with the Phillies, going 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 14 games.

"I learned so much from my time in New York, especially from Mariano Rivera," Smith said. "I would watch him after he had a bad game, and he would shrug it off and come back to work the next day. He never let it bother him. The guy's a true professional. I felt the same way here about Tom Gordon. He has that professional attitude. The group of guys here come to work every day and want to win.

"When my name is called, that's how I approach things. September was huge for me. I didn't expect to get that many opportunities. When it was happening, I thought, 'This is it. I have to take advantage of this.' It gave me a lot of confidence. I feel like I'm ready for this season."

Andy Jasner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.