Phils Need Help In Bullpen

With Billy Wagner on the shelf for at least two more weeks, the Phillies may quickly find themselves in need for some serious help at closer and some other positions on the club. Everyone knew that going into the season, the Phillies would need to have a great season from Billy Wagner in order to be successful. Now, with Wagner battling injuries, a sure fire closer must be inserted into the lineup.

Injuries in sports are a fact of life. They simply can't be avoided, and when they strike, good teams can quickly go south if the injury bug bites enough key players. Right now, as manager Larry Bowa stated on Sunday afternoon, the Phillies are "treading water." Sure the Phillies bench players have been contributing well over the past couple of weeks, but you have to wonder how long they can produce at this high level. One of the most notable positions hurting for Philadelphia right now is the closer.

Fire throwing lefty Billy Wagner has already been out for most of the month and looks to be out for at least another week and a half due to a strained groin. Groin injuries can be hampering and Wagner has faced one before in his career. With Wagner on the shelf the Phillies must find a player who can shut opponents down in the ninth inning in order to continue their recent surge.

After Sunday's rocky finish against the San Diego Padres it is evident that Tim Worrell simply isn't fit to close out ball games. Yes, he did enough to earn the save, but he also loaded the bases and surrendered a run before finally closing the deal. While he has had a couple of rocky outings as the closer this season, Worrell seems to be the club's most reliable setup man, especially after Rheal Cormier's lackluster performance thus far in 2004.

With Worrell struggling, it is only fitting that Ryan Madson takes over the reigns for this club in the ninth inning. In 15 appearances Madson has shut down opponents, posting a miniscule 1.00 ERA to match a 1.00 WHIP (Walks Hits per Innings Pitched) and has struck out 18 hitters in 27 innings of work. Besides Wagner, Madson has been the most dominating and consistent member of this bullpen, and maybe even the entire pitching staff. With the numbers he's put up, he deserves a shot at the closers role, for the short term.

Granted, Billy Wagner is the long term closer for this team if Ed Wade can manage to resign him to a lucrative deal. But with the overflow of talented young pitchers the club has in its minor league system, Madson would make a great insurance policy should Wagner decide to move on when after the 2005 season when his contract expires. He could also be another option should the Phillies decide not to pick up the option on Madson's contract for next season.

News and Notes
  • Chase Utley continues his hot streak since being recalled 12 games ago. Since joining the club he has notched four home runs, 16 RBI and a batting average of .306 one of the best on the team.
  • With the Braves coming into town this weekend, look for Jim Thome to get closer to his milestone of 400 home runs. During the final series at Veterans Stadium last year, Thome launched three home runs during the series, including two in one game on September 27.
  • Placido Polanco will make several rehab appearances in the minors and there should be a competition for the starting job at second base because of Utley's strong play as of late.


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