PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Jonathan Papelbon has had a bumpy ride as Phillies closer.
Since he signed to play in Philadelphia prior to the 2012 season, he’s had his ups and downs both on and off the field. Now, with a fastball that’s lost a little bit of its kick, even his manager is saying he needs to learn to pitch differently.
General manager Ruben Amaro knows that Papelbon is having his issues, but makes it sound like the closer isn’t going anywhere.
“His velocity is down. He’s going to have to do things a little differently until his velocity starts to jump and if it doesn’t then he is going to have to do things differently,” Amaro told Angelo Cataldi and the 94WIP Morning Team on Tuesday. “He’s going to have mix in his split more often, mix in a breaking ball, maybe pitch backwards at times, but it’s hard to get that mentality back there and he has it. And so, right now we’re going to sink and swim with him and see how it goes, and hopefully he gets some of that velocity back and he’s more effective.”
And it isn’t just Papelbon that has been a cause for concern in the Phillies bullpen.
“Yeah, I’m concerned about the bullpen,” Amaro said. “I’m always concerned about the bullpen, especially when we don’t have [Mike] Adams here yet and he’s coming along, but you want to get as much depth and as much quality there.”
The offense has performed better than most expected, and that’s been led by Chase Utley.
“I’ve seen him play, obviously, for a long time. To have watched him play last year and to go through the season healthy, I was very optimistic. It’s one of the reasons why we went ahead and extended him, because we felt like Chase Utley’s got plenty left,” Amaro said. “You know he’s going to do everything he can to put himself on the field and prepare himself and people started to panic when he was in Spring Training and he was only hitting a buck-twenty [.120] or whatever it was he was hitting. People don’t understand and I keep saying the same thing, it’s different for veterans than it is for young kids. Spring Training is Spring Training. It’s about trying to get their timing, trying to get ready to play. It’s not necessarily about performance. He’s got bat speed, he still can run, he still can move. Can he move at the same rate as he used to? No, but he’s still got bat speed and he’s a smarter hitter now than he was. So any deficiencies he may have physically, he’s going to be overcome them because that’s the type of player he is.”
Veterans Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins have been performing as well.
“I really like what I’m seeing. Ryan [Howard] hit the crap out of the ball the other day and didn’t have much to show for it. He should have probably had two home runs and several RBI’s, really swung the bat well,” Amaro said. Still not moving around as quickly as we like him too, but he’s still getting his legs underneath him and still working into mid-season form as far as that is concerned. As far as his base and swinging the bat, I’m real encouraged by that. Jimmy [Rollins] is swinging the bat good too. He’s moving around and swinging the bat well. Again, the numbers aren’t tremendous but I am encouraged by what I’m seeing with bat speed and the things that they’re able to do as far as the offense is concerned.”