PHILADELPHIA -- Left-hander Antonio Bastardo was a lights-out reliever for the Phillies in 2011, allowing just 28 hits in 58 innings while striking out 70. Last season he struggled to repeat that level of success, posting a 4.33 ERA.
In his first seven appearances this year, Bastardo has yet to allow an earned run. He's given up one hit and three walks in 6 1/3 innings with six strikeouts. And, yes, he said he thinks he's back to where he was two years ago.
"I think my mechanics and my focus are a little better to be able to throw the ball down, and at a different angle, too. And that's given my ball more life with better command," the 27-year-old said.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee also attributed Bastardo's early success to the acquisition of Mike Adams to be the setup man for closer Jonathan Papelbon, a role Bastardo was sometimes thrust into a year ago.
"I think because of having Adams here, we've been able to put him in some situations that he's better suited for. Last year when he had to face the middle of right-handed-hitting lineups in the eighth inning, that's tough for a lefty to do," Dubee said.
"You look at his numbers last year and he was really good against left-handed hitters again [.169 opponents' average], so he was doing pretty much the same stuff. Being able to get in better situations, I think his confidence is growing again."
Added manager Charlie Manuel: "So far, he's really kept the ball down good. Even when he gets behind on the hitters, he's been able to throw low strikes and come back and make them either put the ball in play or strike them out. That's what I see."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.