A.J. Achter hopes to find a spot in the Phillies bullpen, which figures to look very different from how it looked this past season. Phillies relievers struggled through the season and rebuilding the pen is high on GM Matt Klentak's to-do list for this offseason.
The 27-year old Michigan State grad, has pitched 18 games in the majors for the Minnesota Twins, posting a 1-1 record and a 5.18 ERA in those games. This past season, he pitched in 11 games with a 6.75 ERA. One of the problems that has plagued Achter in the majors has been control, as he's walked nine batters in 24 1/3 innings of work. On the plus side, he's struck out 19 major league hitters in his time with the Twins.
Should Achter fall short of his goal of pitching in the majors, the right-hander would serve as insurance for the bullpen at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In the minors, Achter has made 99 relief appearances at the Triple-A level, all in the Twins organization, posting a 2.88 ERA. This past season with Rochester, he went 4-2 with a 2.62 ERA in 43 relief appearances. Earlier in his career, Achter was being groomed as a starter, making 19 starts at the Low-A level with Beloit in 2011. He started just one game the following season and has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since that start.
Achter's control problems haven't plagued him at the minor league level. Last season, he walked 13 batters in 48 innings of work and over his minor league career, he's averaged three walks per nine innings, with most of that damage coming early in his career. Last season, batters hit just .167 against Achter in the minors and he held left-handers to just a .147 average in 68 at-bats against. In his time with Rochester, Achter has pitched in four games at Coca-Cola Park, the home of the IronPigs, and has thrown five shutout innings, giving up two hits and four walks, while striking out seven batters.
Achter's repertoire includes a low-90s fastball that he moves around the zone and a change-up that is above average.
Until the arrival of Michael Tonkin at Rochester last season, Achter was closing games for the first time in his career. In the role, he closed 14 of 17 save opportunities for the Red Wings.