TWO WEEKS ago, with the days leading up to baseball's non-waiver trade deadline winding down, Antonio Bastardo said he honestly hadn't given much thought to being traded and he wasn't worried about it one way or another.
But less than a week after the deadline passed, with some time to reflect on it more, Bastardo may be just as confused as anyone else is that he's still a member of the Phillies.
Prior to last night's game at Citizens Bank Park, Bastardo said he'd probably be better off had he been traded as opposed to wasting away with the Phillies.
"I don't know - that's a good question," Bastardo said when asked if he was glad nothing happened at the deadline a week ago. "I don't know. I think it could be good for me to stay here, but I think it could be better going somewhere else. We have two young lefties here, and they can do a really good job. A third lefty in the bullpen . . . I think for my career - for my career - I should be somewhere else."
Bastardo is the longest-tenured member of the Phillies' bullpen. He turns 29 next month and is a free agent after next season.
He has seen Jake Diekman, 27, rise into a prominent role in the back of the bullpen and fellow lefty Mario Hollands, 25, consistent enough to stick on the big-league roster for the entirety of the 2014 schedule.
The way Bastardo sees it, if he was traded to a contender, where he'd be asked to get important outs during a pennant race, the grass would be greener in another team's bullpen.
"For my career, it could be way better to be somewhere else," Bastardo said. "If there was a team interested in me, I could be a part of a team and . . . help more. Be more in the game, stuff like that. Help them, and it could help me in my career. I'm moving forward not to be a mop-up guy in the game. I just like to be in the [biggest] spot that I can get."
Bastardo was coming off one of his more dominant games in his 6-year career. He struck out six of the seven batters he faced in the 11th and 12th innings of the Phillies' 2-1 win over Houston on Tuesday night.
In the last 100 years, Bastardo is the only pitcher in baseball history to record two appearances of two innings when he struck out six batters. He did it on April 8, 2011, vs. Atlanta, too.
"That was as good as I've seen him throw all year," manager Ryne Sandberg said before last night's game. "He had a real good fastball at 94 [mph], and then his other stuff was even better because of his fastball."
Among major league relievers with at least 40 innings this season, Bastardo's 11.28 strikeouts-per-nine innings ranks 20th. But in the last four seasons, Bastardo ranks eighth among big-league relievers (minimum 200 innings).
The only seven who have a better strikeout rate than Bastardo's 11.58: Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland, David Robertson, Ernesto Frieri and Koji Uehara. Six of of those pitchers are current closers.
Does Bastardo see himself as a setup man or as a future closer?
"I can do both," Bastardo said. "But it's step by step. You have to be a setup man before you're a closer. So if I can get the role of a setup man and establish myself, I can pitch in the ninth. For me, it doesn't matter. But it's going out there and trying to do my job."
With Ken Giles (and Diekman) waiting in the wings until Jonathan Papelbon's contract expires, Bastardo likely would have to find a new team to realize those goals.
While all eyes of the Phillies organization were on Baseballtown in Reading, where 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola took the mound for his Double A debut, the team's top slugger in the minors had a scheduled day off.
The way Maikel Franco has been hitting, he would probably have preferred to play. Franco is batting .336 (39-for-116) with four home runs, 11 doubles and 26 RBI in 29 games since July 1 at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
But according to Ryne Sandberg, the Phillies haven't had any recent dialogue about bringing the 21-year-old to the big leagues.
"But the fact is that he is making some strides, he's putting together some at-bats, some weeks of good contact and better at-bats," Sandberg said. "Those are definitely steps in the right direction."
Sandberg said when Franco is deemed ready for the Phillies, he won't be brought up to play sparingly. In order to continue his development, Franco would have to be playing regularly.
Franco is hitting .244 with nine home runs, 57 RBI and a .680 OPS in 107 games at Lehigh.
Jesse Biddle made an impressive return last night.
Biddle threw five no-hit innings at Class A Clearwater, striking out five and walking one. It was the former first-round pick's first game with an affiliated team following a 6-week mental break.
Three months into the season, Biddle was 3-9 with a 5.03 ERA in 15 starts at Double A Reading. Biddle said he was battling confidence issues after a particularly tough month of June: 0-4 with a 12.64 ERA and 14 walks in 15 2/3 innings.
The 22-year-old Philadelphia native was given a break to get his mind right. He met with former Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay during that break, and then returned to the mound for the Gulf Coast League Phillies last week.