The Evolution of Clay Condrey

For a long time, Clay Condrey was just another warm body on the Phillies roster. Now, coming off of a solid 2008 campaign and pitching well in 2009, Clay Condrey is suddenly molding himself into an important piece of the Phillies bullpen.

Clay Condrey has spent a lot of time traveling between Philadelphia and wherever their Triple-A affiliate happened to be at the time. After coming over from the San Diego Padres in March of 2004 as part of a conditional deal, Condrey spent his first two seasons with the Phillies in the minors and went through minor league free agency after each of those seasons, only to re-sign with the Phillies.

Finally, in 2006, Condrey had his contract purchased by the Phillies in late April and stuck with the big league club for two months before returning to Scranton. He returned in September and wound up spending the off-season on the 40 man roster and coming to camp with the Phillies in 2007.

Little did Condrey know that 2007 would be the year he would become very familiar with the roads between Philadelphia and Scranton as he would make the trip between the two cities eight times that season.

The journeys started early in the season and didn't end until early August, when Condrey made it back to Philadelphia for the rest of the season. In-between, Condrey found his name in the transactions column pretty frequently:

  • April 14 - Designated for assignment.
  • April 18 - Cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Scranton.
  • May 5 - Had his contract purchased by the Phillies.
  • June 12 - Outrighted to Triple-A (to clear a roster spot for Kyle Kendrick).
  • June 23 - Had his contract purchased by the Phillies.
  • June 29 - Designated for assignment.
  • July 14 - Had his contract purchased by the Phillies.
  • July 31 - Outrighted to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
  • August 3 - Had his contract purchased by the Phillies.

With all of the traveling, Condrey amassed a high 5.04 ERA with the Phillies in 2007, while posting a strong 2.45 ERA with Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Even so, Condrey was on the post-season roster in 2007 and pitched 1 2/3 innings in the NLDS, giving up one run in the process.

With Condrey's lack of big league success, there would have been no way to tell that when he was outrighted to Scranton in late July of 2007, it would be the last time he would leave the Phillies roster for a long while.

As the 2008 Phillies gathered in Clearwater, Clay Condrey was fighting for a spot in the Phillies bullpen and found himself winning the role of the long-man out of the bullpen for Charlie Manuel. After a tough first month of the season, it again looked like Condrey's major league job was in trouble. As April ended, his ERA stood at 6.23 after being much higher for most of the month.

From there, Condrey would go on to have success out of the bullpen and fans eventually started to take notice when his ERA slowly worked its way back down to acceptable levels. A strong outing against the Mets in early July - 2 1/3 innings, 2 hits, no walks, no earned runs - dropped his ERA below the four-mark, where it would stay for the rest of the season.

As Condrey continued to show manager Charlie Manuel that he could be relied upon, Condrey was given tougher and tougher assignments to handle out of the bullpen.

This past spring, Condrey actually had established himself enough that he came to camp with a pretty good hold on a job and was working only to show the Phillies that someone else should have the long-man's spot in the bullpen, because Condrey was ready for more pressure situations. The back end of the bullpen is set with Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge, but Condrey has at least moved out of his long relief role and is somewhere between being a middle reliever and a setup man to be used late in the game.

With both Madson and Lidge signed for the next few seasons, Condrey has himself in a pretty good spot with the Phillies. He's eligible for arbitration following the 2009 and 2010 seasons and won't hit free agency until following the 2011 season. Madson and Lidge are both signed through the 2011 season, with the Phillies holding an option on Lidge for 2012. The timing puts Condrey in position to conceivably take over either as a set-up man to Lidge or as the team's closer for 2012. Of course, at that point, Condrey will be 36, and his ability to perform long-term as either a set-up man or closer will have to be called into question.

For now, Condrey is happy to have battled through all that he has endured and to be a solid major league pitcher. He started his career by not being drafted in the 1998 Draft and having to take a deal with the Padres as an undrafted free agent. From there, he's endured a trade a couple of Rule 5 Drafts and multiple times on the waiver wire only to come through being able to say that 29 other teams missed their chance at adding him to their bullpen staff.

Condrey also gives the Phillies some depth to take over for either Madson or Lidge in the case of an injury to either pitcher. With Brad Lidge's recent struggles and rumors of returning issues with his knee, Condrey's presence could become something that the Phillies will wind up being very grateful for having on their roster.

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