ALLENTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – Given the injuries the Phillies have had to endure in the bullpen this season, it would be understandable if the well at AAA had run dry of quality arms.

However, that is not the case.

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Despite Michael Stutes, Scott Mathieson, Andrew Carpenter, and David Herndon all leaving the Iron Pig pen for Philadelphia, the Phillies’ top farm team still has highly regarded arms in it — and one of the newest ones is righthander Justin De Fratus.

De Fratus has spent most of the season at AA Reading, going 4-0 in 23 games with eight saves and a 2.10 ERA.   That work got the Phillies’ 11th-round pick in the 2007 draft promoted to AAA on June 16th.

“I was called into the (manager’s) office after our (Reading’s) second game in Bowie, and he basically just told me, ‘We’ve decided to promote you to Triple-A.  Just keep working and hopefully we don’t see you back down here,’ ” De Fratus recalls.

The 23-year-old righthander, who is already a member of the Phillies’ 40-man roster, says it is exciting to now be even closer to the Major Leagues.

“It’s hard not to think about being a step away, but you can’t really think about it.  You gotta understand that what’s important is taking care of the task at hand, which is progressing every day and helping the Iron Pigs win.”

Listen to Matt Leon’s full interview with Justin De Fratus in this CBS Philly SportsPod…

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De Fratus was dominant at AA, but he says it wasn’t necessarily easy.

“In all honesty, there’s been some battles and some adversity, and the fact that I’ve been able to put up some pretty playable numbers,that’s been the most gratifying thing of the season so far,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

So far for AAA Lehigh Valley, De Fratus has made just four appearances and gotten hit around a bit, to the tune of an 8.44 ERA.

But with the recent surge of AAA arms to the Phillies’ bullpen, it’s safe to say that De Fratus will be getting plenty of opportunities for the Iron Pigs.   He talks about how he approaches hitters at any level:

“My approach, it’s obviously attack hitters.  And it’s pitching in the zone.  And if I can get swings and misses in the zone, better.  But you know what?  If they swing at the first pitch and hit it on the ground, that’s great, too.   I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like my strikeouts.  I think a lot of pitchers are lying if they say they don’t like it.  But my main goal is to pound the zone and get outs in the zone.  And if there are swings and misses involved in that, that’s great.”

And De Fratus will strike hitters out.  In 39⅔ innings at AA and AAA combined this season, he has whiffed 49.

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060

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