Phillies Notebook: Chad Durbin May Get Chance To Bounce Back Tonight, Tomorrow
If it were up to him, he said, Chad Durbin might take the first half of the first month to tune up.
Of the regular season, that is.
“If I could, it would just be smarter to throw bullpens every day for the first week or two of April,” he said last Wednesday, and not just because of his results so far.
For Durbin, a consummate slow starter, the early going forces him into things he says he’s not ready for. This is especially true for years like this one. Durbin’s inherited at least 2 runners in 3 of his 4 outings.
“You’re trying to hit the accelerator like you always have after the reps are there, and it’s not quite there yet,” he said. “And I think that’s what hurt.”
But it’s not Week 1 or 2 anymore. Durbin’s had the reps, especially in high-leverage situations.
Now, with his Phillies in the thick of a big early-season series with Cincinnati, and with the back end of the rotation due up, they may need him tonight or tomorrow.
If so, they’ll need him to be the $1.1 million sixth-inning option he’s paid to be, not what he's been. Or, they may need to begin exploring other avenues.
Durbin so far has been poor. He’s allowed 3 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings over 4 appearances.
And those are just runs he’s been charged with. Durbin’s let all 7 runners he’s inherited so far score.
He’s not the only reliever struggling early on, and not the most expensive, either.
Cincinnati’s Jonathan Broxton has let every runner, his or someone else’s, touch home. On Sunday, he allowed 6 runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Pirates. He’s in the first of a 3-year, $21 million contract.
And Broxton’s 11.57 ERA is only sixth-worst among qualifying relievers.
Joba Chamberlain has a 9.86 ERA for the Yankees in 4 appearances. And Wilton Lopez, almost acquired via trade that fell apart over the results of his physical, has a 10.13 ERA in 6 games.
But the Phillies have $64.5 million this year committed to their top 3 starters, and $19 million postmarked for their set-up man and closer.
At $170.7 million, they’ve also got the third-priciest team payroll in the game.
They simply can’t afford shaky middle-inning infrastructure.
For Durbin, early stumbles are nothing new.
He’s 4-7 with a 6.33 ERA in his career in March and April, and yet has a lifetime ERA just under 5.00 overall. Even last year, he surrendered 8 earned runs in as many innings out of the chute.
But as he often has, Durbin turned it around last year. His next month, he had a 2.38 ERA in 11 innings, and didn’t have a monthly ERA over 3.00 for the rest of the year.
That, and his membership on the 2008 Phillies team, is why the Phillies brought him in this offseason.
How does he get it together? Durbin says the answer depends on the season.
“It’s not about me having some process that works or doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting into the season. Some seasons start out a certain way and you run into a wall in August, or whatever.”
Last year, he said that was about shoring up early execution errors. He said he realized he was hanging too many 0-2 and 1-2 pitches over the middle of the plate, serving home runs on a silver platter.
“That was a result of just a lack of execution on my part,” he said. “But my stuff was good.”
This year, Durbin said he can’t say the same – on either. He said he’s not exactly sure what the issue is.
“This spring, I felt like I was just missing,” he said. “I was pulling balls off the plate. And when I did throw it over, it was right down the middle.”
That, he said, carried over into the regular season, and each of those first 4 appearances. Correcting it, he said, is all about repetition – and film study and other diagnostics after games.
But how long do the Phillies have to wait for him to get right?
Their arms in the system could be ready. Jake Diekman and Justin DeFratus particularly impressed this camp, but were told they needed to continue polishing their game in Triple-A. Mike Stutes, who dazzled in 2011, has experience as a long man, and he said in spring training a preference for it.
But unlike Jeremy Horst or Phillippe Aumont, Durbin can’t be optioned. Only cut.
Too early to start swinging trades, it will come down then to whether the Phillies are willing to take a chance on youth.
Unless, of course, Durbin proves they don’t have to, a chance he may get within hours.
Durbin said he didn’t expect before any time out the shellacking he’s got so far, and that until he’s lit up consistently, he’ll continue to expect results every time he goes out.
“I’ve had games where I went two innings, struck out 4 or 5, and felt like I didn’t make a pitch, I just lucked out that day,” he said with a laugh. “And I’ve had other times where I felt really good – my last outing, I feel like I executed almost every pitch I wanted to, and I still let up 2 of Doc’s runs. Almost got out of it.”
But if he didn’t know that was in store then, how does he know how close he is to his goal?
“The hitters that will let you know,” he said with a smile.
We’ll see what they have to say about him soon.