View Count: 310 |  Publish Date: April 07, 2014
Phillies Notes: Diekman brings 'fire' to middle-relief role
Matt Gelb, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014, 3:01 AM
CHICAGO - Jake Diekman threw 65 pitches in four of the Phillies first five games, so he was excused from the sixth. He found work Sunday in the form of a morning jog on the warning track at Wrigley Field. Diekman relaxed for the remainder of the day.
The lanky lefthander emerged, in less than a week, as Ryne Sandbergs most trusted middle reliever for tight situations. There is an obvious reason.
"Unbelievable," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "He brings that fire."
Diekman fired 10 pitches at 94 m.p.h. or harder Saturday. His velocity began to rise in 2013 with improved mechanics and confidence. Just two lefthanded relievers - Tampa Bays Jake McGee and Pittsburghs Justin Wilson - have thrown their fastballs in 2014 at a higher average velocity than Diekmans, according to FanGraphs.
More coverageVOTE: Do the Phillies need to find a new closer?Are Phillies bullpen woes on Sandberg? POLL: Most popular Phils infielder from this era in 20 years?PHOTOS: 2014 Phillies Spring TrainingFollow the Phillies: Download our FREE Pro Baseball app!VOTE: Who will win the NL East?Latest Phillies videos Forum: Can the Phillies contend in 2014?Speed in the post-steroid era, in which strikeouts are up and runs are down, is a dangerous weapon. And Diekman, who hit 99 m.p.h. at times last summer, could gain more later in the season.
Last week, Sandberg said Antonio Bastardo was his "eighth-inning guy," although Diekman could challenge that status. Diekman pitched in the eighth inning Saturday with a two-run lead because Sandberg thought Bastardo had struggled with the cold weather during his outing Friday.
"His stuff plays when he works ahead in the strike zone," Sandberg said of Diekman. "Hes pitching with confidence."
Diekman was the first Phillies pitcher to appear in four of the teams first five games since Danys Baez in 2010. Twelve pitchers since 1987 equaled that workload.
He allowed runs in each of his first two outings, although two scored on opening day when Sandberg tried to use Diekman for more than one inning. The manager has found high-leverage situations for Diekman anywhere between the sixth and eighth innings.
"Its an uncomfortable at-bat," Byrd said. "From last year, I remember he would pound the zone early. Fastballs in. Then hed start guys off with sliders, giving them something else to think about. That year of knowledge always helps."
Hamels starts
Cole Hamels (biceps tendinitis) pitched four innings for single-A Clearwater in his first official rehabilitation start. He allowed two runs, both of which scored on solo home runs by Toronto prospect Dwight Smith Jr.
Hamels struck out four and walked none. He could make three more minor-league starts before being activated.
Extra bases
Brad Lincoln made his Phillies debut in the sixth inning and allowed an inherited runner to score. He recorded one out. Lincoln was the last player on the 25-man roster to appear in a game. . . . Ben Revere is 4 for 4 in stolen bases through six games. He is expected to be credited with a fifth stolen base, which originally was ruled as defensive indifference, from opening day.
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