Storyline: 8th Inning’s Crux Faces the Philadelphia Phillies

Whether it’s a slider in the dirt or an unexpected rising fastball, Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies will coax the relief corps through the darkness after the seventh frame. But did the millions spent on AJ Burnett prevent management from now adding a primary setup man?

Please, scroll down for this edition of Nitecap Insight: Something’s Missing.



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Ruiz Ponders How to Maximize His Battery Mate's Repertoire.

Ruiz Ponders How to Maximize His Battery Mate’s Repertoire.






Something’s Missing:

Ryan Madson could be affordable, but an incentive-laden contract reaching $5 million total could exceed the competitive-balance threshold.

Without notice the claims for baseball parity are in the past. Considering the industry, the two luxury-taxed franchises are not problem-free. The Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka and Brian McCann, lost Robinson Cano to the Mariners, and they have question marks or holes with their infield. Among their surgically repaired troops, they have Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, but second and third base are wide open for competition.

The Dodgers have three former closers, four starting outfielders and a second-base hole, which they hoped the recently retired Michael Young would plug in an emergency. While casual observers eye an extra outfielder as a valuable trade chip for a second baseman, Los Angeles rejects lowball offers. In other words, no steal equals no deal. Meanwhile, the Nationals pulled off this surprising one-sided swap for Doug Fister because the Tigers needed the dollars for a young controllable stud, a closer and Max Scherzer.

According to Jim Salisbury of, the Phils did not make a major pen addition. That said, the long man failed his physical, a veteran joined the squad, and the setup opening is still available.

A Season-Ending Request: Papelbon's Celebratory Dance, His Wacky Irish Jig, Performed at the Bank.

A Season-Ending Request: Papelbon’s Celebratory Dance, His Wacky Irish Jig, Performed at the Bank.

After firing 94 mph heat last summer during a save in Boston, Jonathan Papelbon demonstrated he has adrenaline if the team is contending. That stated, the improved offense and rotation will need a solid hammer to seal victories.

Adam’s Apple:

Shoulder injuries are iffy, and even Mike Adams said it could finish his career. By camp’s end, Adams will know if his heater is still up to speed. Keep in mind, Roy Halladay experienced this and he retired almost a year later.

According to the reported time frame, Adams might miss part of April or more. Everything will depend on his progress following his first bullpen session on February 27.

While questions pile up, Ruben Amaro Jr. is avoiding the clarity that would alert other front offices. He doesn’t want another GM to capitalize on his situation, which would be his eighth-inning hole. On the other hand, the head honcho may have positive feedback about Adams, which could explain his actions. But the $189 million ceiling represents no obstacle.

Explosive Fireballers:

Antonio Bastardo burst onto the scene with a plus fastball that still occasionally touches 94 mph. Although he handled the eighth frame consistently, he reminds fans of past fears with just one shaky outing. Many have not forgotten his 2012 mediocrity, and most magnify every bad appearance. In other words, he’s better than people realize.

Potential Set-up Men:

[table id=533 /]

With a Four-Seam Fastball Loaded, Bastardo Has the Hitter Thinking About His Slider.

With a Four-Seam Fastball Loaded, Bastardo Has the Hitter Thinking About His Slider.

BJ Rosenberg picked up the splitfinger fastball from Papelbon, and the speed differential keeps hitters off-balance. During the final series in Atlanta, he earned an eighth-inning hold against a vicious opponent fighting for home-field advantage with St. Louis. And Ryne Sandberg often relied on him to close at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in ’12, which might give him a slight edge over Jake Diekman.

Even though his control has room for growth, Diekman is the local writers’ favorite young gun. He was also in that lone final weekend win and worked a scoreless seventh frame against the extremely determined Braves. He still amps himself up too much; however, he has improved focus-wise. If anybody can inch past Rosenberg on the depth chart, he’s the one.

Long Shots:

Justin De Fratus has the arsenal, but he hasn’t demonstrated enough consistency for a manager’s trust. With the game up for grabs, he is behind Rosenberg and Diekman. Unlike them, however, during the final cuts he will be on the bubble.

Because of too many deep counts, Ethan Martin is a one-inning hurler. He would benefit greatly by closing for Lehigh Valley and might even be ready for the show by June’s end. Until then, he is an insurance policy for the pen.

$189 Million Maximum Before the Luxury Tax Ceiling:

[table id=534 /]

Dollars and Sense:

Firstly, the organization’s penalty concerns are different than reports of tapped out finances. Getting creative, the decision-maker signed Burnett for two guaranteed AAV campaigns at $22.5 million. The AAV (Average Annual Value) is the computed amount for the luxury tax. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Amaro inked Burnett for $7.5 million (signing bonus), $7.5 million (2014 salary) and $7.5 million (2015 player option): He can earn at least $22.5 million, which is an AAV of $11.25 million per year.

The degree of Adams’ uncertainty is not publicly available. If he has a realistic chance to be the eighth-frame answer, management won’t need a backup plan. However, most setup arms are off the market.

Within the $189 million framework, the red pinstripes could ink Madson to an incentive-laden deal of $4 million.




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