Antonio Bastardo had two decent starts before giving way to Cliff Lee in 2009, but my earliest memory of Bastardo is in the 2009 NLDS when he came in to face left-handed slugger Jason Giambi of the Colorado Rockies. Bastardo struck him out. At that point I had high hopes for the Phillies' left-hander as a high point in the Phillies bullpen.
In 2010 Bastardo got to pitch a little bit, 25 games in all but only just under 19 innings, thanks so appearances for an out or two. It was 2011 that Bastardo began to come into his own as a relief pitcher.
What an interesting 2011 it was. Bastardo burst into the scene with a 0.87 ERA in April, appearing in 10 games. In 11 games in May, Bastardo pitched to a higher, but still really good 2.00 ERA. Then, in 11 games in June, Bastardo did not give up an earned run. He seemed like he was one of the premier relievers in all of Major League Baseball. July was not perfect, but Bastardo pitched in 12 games to a 2.38 ERA. Then, in 10 August games, Bastardo had a 1.38 ERA. He was living large as one of the top relief arms in the Major Leagues.
Then September came. All of a sudden the top-notch Bastardo was hit around silly. Opponents hit .310 against him in September, and he pitched to an uncharacteristic 11.05 ERA. He was clearly leaking oil.
Unfortunately, Bastardo could not put together one solid season from start to finish. Despite this, Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro decided to make Bastardo the one lefty in the Phillies' bullpen when the season started. The only other consideration for the major league roster in Spring Training was Dontrelle Willis, who was quickly released.
Bastardo has struggled in 2012. His 5.45 ERAs is one of the highest among pitchers in Major League Baseball. He does not have the innings to register among the league worst, since he is a reliever, but his ERA is 0.01 less than the league worst Randy Wolf of the Milwaukee Brewers. To put it in perspective, when Bastardo enters a game, and generally one inning is his usual workload, it is more likely than not he will give up a run. That is not acceptable for the major leagues.
Eventually, Joe Savery, Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, and Raul Valdes all pitched their way onto the major league club. Two of them have found success. Horst has a low 1.29 ERA. Valdes is a much more respectable 3.33, which includes his last rough outing before he hit the disabled list with an injury. It is in the success of Horst and Valdes that I feel the Phillies must make a difficult decision and option Antonio Bastardo to AAA.
Bastardo has a ton of talent. However, he is not getting batters out. The 2012 Phillies are playing solely for the purpose of finding out what they have for next year and Horst and Valdes could play their way onto the 2013 team. Bastardo clearly needs work, and for every game he loses in the major leagues, the less a chance the other lefties get. This is a situation the opposite of most, where players can fail at the big league level.
We know Bastardo can get major leaguers out. But something is not right. His velocity is down a bit and he is not getting batters out. I have absolutely no ground to stand on or proof for it, but I wonder/worry if he is injured and needs Tommy John surgery or something. Whatever it is, please send him to AAA to figure it out.