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Uncertainties remain in Phillies' bullpen

Uncertainties remain in Phillies' bullpen

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Opening Day is less than a week away, and the Phillies will likely get there with significant questions in their bullpen.

Two uncertainties revolve around recovering late-inning guys, as lefty J.C. Romero and closer Brad Lidge are both slated to start the season on the disabled list after offseason surgeries.

And two others played out once again on Tuesday, as Jose Contreras and Antonio Bastardo performed less than optimally in the Phillies' 5-2 loss to the Astros at Osceola County Stadium.

Contreras, a 38-year-old right-hander, was rocked in the fifth inning, being charged with three earned runs while recording only two outs. Signed to a $1.5 million contract this offseason, Contreras has now given up 12 earned runs in 12 Grapefruit League innings, giving him a 9.00 ERA.

While Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee admitted he's a bit concerned regarding Contreras' results, he added that he's "not ready to jump off any bridges about it yet." Manager Charlie Manuel believes it's all about Contreras adjusting to being a full-time reliever.

"Once he gets his command down and once he starts getting his split and his breaking ball over the plate, his stuff is big," Manuel said. "It's just a matter of getting him there."

Bastardo wasn't as shaky as Contreras, but the southpaw gave up a leadoff triple to the left-handed-hitting Michael Bourn before getting a groundout and a strikeout and exiting his outing after two outs. With Romero still recovering from offseason elbow surgery, Bastardo -- who yielded a .361 on-base percentage to 36 left-handed batters in the Majors last year -- will be the Phillies' only lefty option out of the bullpen.

In 8 2/3 innings this spring, Bastardo has a 6.23 ERA.

But Manuel doesn't believe an 11th-hour waiver pickup or free-agent acquisition would really help much.

"Every now and then, you can pull somebody off, but even when you pull somebody off waivers, I think we're still taking the same chance that we've got," Manuel said.

"If there's somebody out there that definitely can help us, believe me, I'll definitely suggest that and try to push for it. But at the same time, usually, this time of year, if you pick somebody up, it's a gamble."

The Phillies currently have 12 healthy pitchers in camp, meaning the bullpen -- barring acquisitions and after Jamie Moyer was officially named the fifth starter -- will consist of Contreras, Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick, Ryan Madson, Danys Baez, Chad Durbin and David Herndon.

Manuel said he's not worried about that group just yet.

"We'll get the real read when the season starts," Manuel said.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
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