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Phillies reportedly send for bullpen reinforcements

The SportsXchange

Michael Schwimer was the first to go, and now he appears to be breaking the news on what amounts to a full line change for the Phillies' bullpen.

On Thursday, after Triple-A Lehigh Valley was finished with a matinee game while the Phillies enjoyed a day off, Schwimer tweeted a congratulations to left-handed relievers Jake Diekman and Raul Valdes, whom he said were headed to the major leagues from Triple-A.

If the Phillies are about to complete a bullpen overhaul, it's not altogether surprising. The Phillies entered Thursday's off day with a 5.59 bullpen ERA, far and away the worst in the major leagues.

The Milwaukee Brewers' relief corps, 29th among the 30 major league teams, had a 4.77 ERA.

"What we've got right now, that's kind of what we got," manager Charlie Manuel said of his bullpen following a 10-6 loss to the Mets on Wednesday. "We'll always be talking and seeing if we can't get better of course. That's who we have."

Manuel's bullpen has five blown saves in the last 10 days. The Phillies have lost eight games this season in which they were either tied or held the lead in the seventh inning.

Part of the problem has been injuries.

While Cliff Lee missed three weeks because of an oblique injury, moving Kyle Kendrick to the rotation, and with right-handers Mike Stutes and David Herndon on the disabled list, too, the bullpen had three players who began the season in Triple-A: Schwimer, veteran Brian Sanches and left-hander Joe Savery.

Savery was optioned to Triple-A on Wednesday night, with an ensuing move coming Friday, the team announced.

If Schwimer's breaking-news tweet holds up, Diekman is likely in line to replace Savery.

The 25-year-old Diekman impressed in spring training and has dominated in the International League. He has a 0.59 ERA in 15 games at Lehigh Valley, racking up 22 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings.

While Diekman has never pitched in the big leagues, fellow left-hander Valdes has 70 2/3 major league innings on his resume. He pitched in 13 games with the Yankees and Cardinals in 2011, and made 38 appearances for the Mets in 2010.

The 34-year-old Valdes has struck out 26 while walking one in 21 innings at Lehigh Valley this season.

Meanwhile, in the major leagues, nearly every arm in the Phillies' bullpen has had a meltdown in the last week.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save on Monday.

Fellow veteran Jose Contreras gave up a run in Wednesday's 10-6 loss and has an 8.59 ERA in nine games, with opponents hitting .345 against him.

After beginning the season with six scoreless appearances, Chad Qualls has allowed five runs in his last six games.

Kendrick, in his first appearance out of the bullpen in over three weeks, entered Wednesday with a 4-2 lead and left with a 6-4 deficit.

Manuel held a closed-door meeting following Wednesday's loss and didn't voice much confidence in his bullpen when talking to reporters afterward.

"I think our bullpen has been a problem, yes," Manuel said. "We've run into some situations where we had to push them, and we pushed them a little too far for who they are."

In an interview with MLB.com, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. took some heat off his much-maligned bullpen, pointing out that the Phillies' recent skid -- they've lost five of their last six games -- has involved more than shaky outings from the team's relievers.

"Our bullpen has not been sharp lately and has hurt us, but we put a lot of pressure on our pitching," Amaro said. "We all have to take part in the wins and losses. If we don't make mental and physical mistakes, we win a lot of these games.

" ... I don't think they're nearly as bad as they've been pitching. Our guys still have good stuff. They just need to execute better."

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