Brian Schlitter Is A Name To Remember

With the addition of Brad Lidge, who can be a free agent after the 2008 season, there is some thought about the future. Will Brett Myers have to move back to the bullpen, or is there a young pitcher who could develop into the Phillies' closer of the future?

Brian Schlitter isn't a name that's well known among Phillies fans. As a 16th round pick in the 2007 Draft, Schlitter's entrance to the organization didn't bring much of a spotlight with it, but his performance over the Summer has raised the level of the attention by at least a little. In fact, some are looking at the 21 year old right-hander as the Phillies closer of the future.

Schlitter was drafted out of the College of Charleston, where he split his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen in his senior season. His college coach, John Pawlowski, credited Schlitter with helping the team out of a lot of jams. "He pitched in relief early in the year and every time he came into a game, it was with guys in scoring position, late in the game, game on the line," said Pawlowski after the Phillies drafted Schlitter. "He has really been a bright spot for us."

The Phillies let Schlitter wet his feet quickly in Williamsport, getting him into one game there before pushing him along to Lakewood. With the BlueClaws, Schlitter was a strong part of the bullpen and converted three of the five save opportunities that he was given. While that's not a good enough percentage, Schlitter showed good command of his pitches and walked just 6 in 23.2 innings of work, while striking out 21 hitters. In truth, some of Schlitter's numbers aren't overly impressive, including the fact that opponents hit .287 against Schlitter and allowed four of eight inherited runners to score, but scouts were impressed with how Schlitter developed late in the Summer. Among his arsenal is a good fastball and with some fine tuning, Schlitter's slider is getting much better and should be an above average pitch for him as he moves up the ladder.

Some more of the downside includes high opponent averages in key situations late in the game, including seeing opponents hit .476 with runners in scoring position. Truth is though that many closers take time to reach the domination level and the fact that Schlitter split his time in college between starting and relieving took away time from him to develop a closer's mentality and the ability to handle himself in those key spots, even if he was successful in many of those spots during his college days.

It's likely that the Phillies will start Schlitter back at Lakewood to open the 2008 season, but could move him up to Clearwater by mid-summer if all is going well. With time under his belt to truly develop his skills as a closer, Schlitter could be a good one. Remember the name and find time to follow Brian Schlitter in 2008, because he could be a name to throw out there when you talk about the Phillies potential closer of the future.

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