Jonathan Papelbon thinks the Phillies will have a top-five bullpen

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The Phillies had the fourth-highest bullpen ERA in baseball last season at 4.19, according to FanGraphs. Don’t tell that to closer Jonathan Papelbon, who thinks the Phillies will have a top-five bullpen in 2014.

Via CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury:

“I will be very, very surprised if this is not a much better bullpen this year,” he said one recent day at Phillies camp.

Papelbon went a step further.

“I will be surprised if we’re not a top five bullpen in all of baseball. There’s way too much talent here. All we were waiting on was the experience and now these guys have it.”

Salisbury added that Papelbon is particularly encouraged by the development of lefty Jake Diekman and right-handers B.J. Rosenberg and Justin De Fratus. Rosenberg, who learned a splitter from Papelbon, has potential but walked 10.5 percent of batters last season. De Fratus walked 12 percent.

Diekman was the most impressive of the bunch last season, posting an overall 2.58 ERA. He really turned it on after July, posting a 1.64 ERA with 26 strikeouts and nine unintentional walks in 22 innings between the start of August and the end of the regular season.

Papelbon will play an important role in the success or failure of the Phillies’ bullpen. His results weren’t bad, but his strikeout rate declined from 34 and 32 percent in the previous two seasons to 22 percent, almost certainly a result of his average fastball velocity dropping from 95 MPH to 92 MPH. The right-hander, though, recently revealed that he battled a hip injury last season. If that was the cause, as opposed to the fact that he is in his mid-30’s, then his optimism may not be misplaced.

Expecting the Phillies’ bullpen to rank in the top-five in baseball may be a bit too strong, but top-ten wouldn’t be crazy. There is quite a lot of potential there.

Dave Roberts: It “doesn’t make sense” for Scott Kazmir to start year in Dodgers’ rotation

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Scott Kazmir won’t begin the regular season in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Manager Dave Roberts said after Kazmir’s Cactus League outing on Sunday that it “doesn’t make sense” for the ailing Kazmir to break camp in the rotation, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. The lefty will instead rehab some more and join the rotation at a later time.

Kazmir has been battling a hip issue which has caused his mechanics to suffer. He was clocked in the low 80’s 10 days ago and wasn’t much better on Sunday afternoon.

Last season with the Dodgers, Kazmir posted a 4.56 ERA with a 134/52 K/BB ratio in 136 1/3 innings, his worst numbers since returning to the majors in 2013.

Robert Gsellman wins spot in Mets’ rotation

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that Robert Gsellman has won the No. 4 spot in the Mets’ starting rotation. He adds that the Mets are likely to play things cautiously with lefty Steven Matz. The fifth and final rotation spot will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo.

Gsellman, 23, has had a great spring. The right-hander has allowed three earned runs on 15 hits and four walks with nine strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. That is on the heels of seven solid starts at the end of the 2016 season during which he yielded 12 earned runs on 40 hits and 12 walks with 40 strikeouts in 41 innings.

Matz, 25, is dealing with irritation in his left elbow. He had surgery in October to remove a bone spur and was a Tommy John patient several years ago. It sounds like the Mets are leaning towards having him start the season on the disabled list.

Wheeler, 26, isn’t having a great spring. He’s surrendered seven runs in 7 1/3 innings. Lugo has given up three earned runs in seven spring innings and also looked solid in the World Baseball Classic although he took the loss in the final against the United States.