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.

A.J. Hinch: “If it was any other time of the year, [José Altuve] wouldn’t be in the lineup.”

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It has been evident throughout the playoffs that Astros second baseman José Altuve’s right knee is bothering him. Altuve battled a right knee issue in July, then banged it up again in Game 2 of the ALDS and it’s been a problem ever since.

Manager A.J. Hinch said that if it were the regular season, he wouldn’t put Altuve in the lineup. Per MLB.com’s Richard Justice, the full quote:

He’s hurt. And if it was any other time of the year, he wouldn’t be in the lineup or wouldn’t be playing. He’d probably be on the DL. … But he’s showing up every day in good spirits, ready to go, giving 100 percent of what he’s got. He should be commended.

Hinch also said of Altuve, “His teammates revere him. The production that he’s doing on one leg is pretty incredible. And he’s trying not to talk about it. And therefore I am.”

During the ALCS, Altuve has hit .250/.368/.313 in 16 at-bats. He has just one extra-base hit but he has racked up three singles and drawn three walks while scoring four runs. Hinch has had Marwin González start at second base Games 3 and 4 and is doing so again on Thursday night in Game 5.