Diekman key cog in bullpen shakeup

Diekman key cog in bullpen shakeup

Diekman key cog in bullpen shakeup
PHILADELPHIA -- Two years ago, Jake Diekman couldn't have imagined this day. Standing in a big league clubhouse, wearing a big league uniform. And maybe the Phillies didn't see it either.

That was before Diekman was converted from a starter to a reliever, before minor league pitching coordinator Gorman Heimueller and minor league pitching coach Bob Milacki suggested that he lower his release point.

The results were dramatic enough that the 25-year-old left-hander had an 0.59 earned run average with 22 strikeouts and just three walks in 15 1/3 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley before being called up as part of a bullpen shuffle before Friday night's game against the Padres. Left-hander Raul Valdes, 34, was also selected from the IronPigs.

Those moves were part of a larger roster shake-up for the team with the worst record in the NL (11-21). Laynce Nix was also placed on the disabled list with a sore calf and 32-year-old infielder Hector Luna was called up.

Diekman was so impressive in Spring Training -- 0.00 ERA, nine strikeouts, one walk in five innings -- that pitching coach Rich Dubee jokingly offered to become his agent.

Lefthanders had been hitting .270 against the Phillies this season and the bullpen's 5.47 ERA was the highest in the Major Leagues. So it was clear something had to be done.

"They're not here to be saviors. They're here to hopefully improve our bullpen. They were pitching pretty well and hopefully that will continue," said general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

The first thing Diekman did when he found out about his promotion was to call his father, Paul, at work in Nebraska. His father, who traveled to Citizen's Bank Park for Friday night's game, cried.

"It was probably the best feeling I've ever felt in my entire life. Making him cry was pretty cool," he said.

Diekman had never pitched above Double-A before this season. Valdes has appeared in 51 games in the bigs with the Mets, Cardinals and Yankees. He said he recognizes that this is another opportunity. "Yes, the bullpen is going through a tough time, but we have some good pitchers here. We can come forward out of this," he said.

When Diekman and Valdes make their first appearances, the Phillies will have already used 13 different relievers this season.