Phils' bullpen quietly off to strong start

Phils' bullpen quietly off to strong start

PITTSBURGH -- Since the team moved into Citizens Bank Park, when one thinks of the Phillies, one thinks of offense. And with good reason, what with a lineup of bashers that leads the National League in home runs.

But the Phils have quietly put together a quality bullpen, one that had the lowest ERA in the National League (2.65) heading into Saturday and ranked second in the Majors behind the Rays.

"I'm not surprised about how good our bullpen's been once we've gotten healthy," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think our bullpen, the way we want it set up, is close to being right there where we want it, especially from the back end. And I think it can even get better."

After a rocky start on Opening Day against the Nationals in which it allowed seven runs in four innings, the bullpen has been outstanding. It has a 1.91 ERA and has held opponents to a .185 batting average in the 70 2/3 innings since Opening Day.

"We're doing an outstanding job right now," closer Brad Lidge said. "Guys are really coming in there -- and in tough situations, too -- and getting it done. I think we're all very confident and very comfortable right now, and I think that's a big part of a bullpen's success is everyone feeling confident and comfortable with what they're doing."

Lidge has been a big part of the success, as he has converted all six save opportunities this season after spending the first four games of the season on the disabled list due to a knee injury sustained during Spring Training. He has appeared in 11 games, pitching one inning per outing, and has stuck out 12 while allowing only 11 baserunners.

With Lidge, former closer Tom Gordon (eight scoreless outings in 10 appearances since Opening Day) and lefty J.C. Romero (who has yet to allow a run in 12 games), Manuel feels comfortable with the lead late in games. Philadelphia might have one of the best seventh-eighth-ninth-inning combinations in the game. Throw in the contributions of offseason signing Chad Durbin as a so-called "long man" (1.56 ERA), and the Phils have plenty of options late in games.

"I think that Lidge is going to keep getting better, and I think keeping Gordon healthy and keeping Gordon throwing like he did [in scoreless outings Thursday and Friday] is a big key," Manuel said. "And we got Romero and [Ryan] Madson, so from the seventh inning on, I think we can be real tough. Also, when Durbin has done a tremendous job for us so far -- two innings, two, three innings in a game -- that's become a big thing for us, too."

A big key is everyone settling into roles and then accepting those roles. Also, Manuel said the unit has been unselfish. He pointed to Gordon in particular, saying the 40-year-old veteran is willing to pitch at any time.

It is that sort of attitude that promotes camaraderie among the relief corps' members, which in turn helps foster a better bullpen.

"With this bullpen, everybody seems to get along," right-hander Clay Condrey said. "At any point of time, any hour of the day or night, you can call somebody, and they'll be in their room or whatever. It's a pretty tight-knit group."

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