CLEARWATER, Fla. - Chad Durbin, the man who pitched more innings than any other Phillies reliever last season, signed with Cleveland last week.
Danys Baez could not complete an inning of a B game against Toronto Saturday morning.
Justin De Fratus served up a high fastball for a two-run home run to the New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson Sunday afternoon during the fourth inning at Bright House Field, and Michael Schwimer surrendered four hits and three earned runs in the sixth.
In other words, some of the candidates to replace Durbin in middle relief are not off to the best of starts here in the beautiful, bright sunshine just off the Gulf of Mexico.
"Uh, oh" could be the response to that sequence of events.
"No big deal" is the proper reaction, and for a number of reasons.
Manager Charlie Manuel remained relaxed after the Phillies' 7-3 exhibition loss to the Yankees. He knows De Fratus and Schwimer are in their first big-league camps and had an extra adrenaline rush before pitching against the Yankees. They'll get more than one chance to prove their worth.
"De Fratus today, he was trying to overthrow," Manuel said. "That's his first time out, and he was wired up. So was the other guy [Schwimer]. He was fired up this morning when I came in. That was their first time to show they could pitch here. They'll be all right. Both of them have good stuff."
Perhaps because the Phillies owe him $2.75 million regardless of how he pitches, Baez is a concern even at this early stage.
"He didn't pitch well," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He was erratic with his command. It's just one game, but he has to pitch better, and I think he knows that."
Truth is, whatever happens with Baez, De Fratus, and Schwimer, the Phillies will be able to replace Durbin.
One National League scout was sure of it.
"Durbin is the 13th pitcher on a 12-man staff," the scout said.
That's too harsh, but the other point the scout made was spot on.
"If you have great starting pitching . . . the weakness in your bullpen never shows up," he said. "All their pitchers go so deep into the game, so basically most of the time they're going to use their setup guy and the closer."
The scout said the majority of big-league teams feel as though they need to cover 1,500 innings per year. A good starting staff is expected to throw 1,000 innings, with the bullpen picking up the remainder.
A year ago, Phillies starters led the majors with 1,0351/3 innings pitched, and that was without Cliff Lee for the entire season and Roy Oswalt except for the final eight weeks. The bullpen covered a league-low 421 innings, 64 fewer than the league average.
The five projected starters for this season combined for 1,0582/3 innings last season, and that includes monthlong stints on the disabled list for Lee and Joe Blanton. If this rotation remains healthy, it's conceivable it could cover 1,100 innings, leaving roughly 400 innings or fewer for the bullpen.
"And only 200 of those innings are important innings," the scout said. "You only really need two guys pitching well for you."
History supports the scout's theory.
Since 2000, nine of the 11 National League teams whose bullpens had the fewest amount of innings won at least a division title.
Amaro said he'd be more comfortable if "12 out of 12" of his relievers were going well, but he knows that is probably unrealistic. He also knows he has a long list of candidates to cover the scarce amount of innings expected to be left by the rotation.
Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, and Jose Contreras are expected to be the late-inning guys, with J.C. Romero likely to handle the lefthanded specialist role again. Kyle Kendrick, with a $2.45 million contract, will have a spot as well. Vance Worley, David Herndon, Antonio Bastardo, and Scott Mathieson are also in the mix of arms that could fill a spot in the bullpen at some point during the season.
"I think we have candidates to do that [Durbin] job in this camp," Amaro said. "Have they done it as consistently as Chad Durbin did it over the last couple of years? Probably not, but they haven't gotten the opportunity. Hopefully, some of the guys that are here will be able to stand up and handle that job."
The odds are outstanding that that will happen.