Baseball / Sports

Phillies' Bastardo back to basics after slip in control

Cole Hamels finished his scheduled throwing session Thursday afternoon and Antonio Bastardo entered the bullpen. He chatted with Philadelphia Phillies coaches Bob McClure and Rod Nichols. He raised his left arm to mimic his pitching motion.

Bastardo tossed a few pitches. They talked some more. Then Bastardo walked to right field during batting practice. He continued to practice his mechanics without a ball.

"I feel good," Bastardo said. "I'm not pitching well."

There was nothing else to say one day after Bastardo faced five batters and walked four. The 28-year-old lefthander has tumbled down Ryne Sandberg's bullpen depth chart. Control is a constant issue.

"Whether it's mechanical or whatever it is, he's just missing out of the zone," Sandberg said. "It's been more significant this year than in the past. It's something that he just has to work on; you need those strikes coming out of the bullpen."

Bastardo has issued 17 walks in his first 23 innings this season, a rate of 6.7 walks per nine innings. His walk rate before 2014 was 4.2 per nine. He has thrown first-pitch strikes to 54.4 percent of batters one season after doing it 68.7 percent of the time.

The $2 million reliever started from scratch Thursday with the hopes of regaining confidence. Bastardo said his extra work Thursday focused on his rotation; he believed his right arm and torso were flying open. He wants to center his body on a straight line to home plate.

Sandberg used Bastardo in the sixth inning Wednesday. That is unfamiliar territory for Bastardo, who has occupied the seventh and eighth innings in recent seasons. It was his fifth time pitching in the sixth since 2010.

Jake Diekman, who allowed a go-ahead homer Wednesday, has inherited Bastardo's important situations.

"I like that right now where we stand," Sandberg said.

LEE NOT CLEARED: Cliff Lee was again examined by team doctors, but the status quo prevailed. The lefthander has not been cleared to throw because of an elbow strain. There was a "little, slight sensation" still in Lee's elbow, Sandberg said.

Lee will be evaluated on a daily basis to monitor any changes. "In the meantime he's getting lower-body work," Sandberg said, "and he's getting his running in and doing everything else other than throwing."

EXTRA BASES: Jimmy Rollins played in his 2,000th game Wednesday, becoming just the second Phillies player to do so. Mike Schmidt played in 2,404 games. ... The Phillies' comeback Wednesday marked the first time all season they won when trailing after eight innings. Their record was 0-21 before that. ... This five-game series with the Mets is the Phillies' first since July 2006 against Florida at Citizens Bank Park.

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