Antonio Bastardo ready to win with Pittsburgh Pirates


If there’s ‘a’ left-hander in the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen, it’s Tony Watson, who has emerged as one of the most dominant southpaw relievers in all of Major League Baseball in recent years. However, this winter, Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington shored up the relief corps, adding Antonio Bastardo in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Bastardo, who will hit the open market after the 2015 season, has spent his entire big league career with the Phillies – a team whose age showed in multiple ways last year. The club limped to a dismal 73-89 record – and after such a season, the left-hander is ready to contribute on a competitive Bucs team.

"“I was surprised,” Bastardo told the Tribune-Review this weekend. “But I feel happy about it because I know this team plays the game the right way. Everybody plays hard, and everybody cares about things. I’m happy to be part of this.”"

With the Phils last season, the southpaw put together another solid season, posting a 3.94 ERA in a career-high 67 games. During that stretch, his peripherals – namely his FIP – showed that he was better than his earned run average indicated. In the season prior, his 2.32 clip was the best of his career – although, again, his FIP suggested that he should sit around the 3.00 mark.

After getting a taste of what it was like to play for an annual contender with the Phillies teams of the last decade, Bastardo said he’s excited to get back to winning – something he enjoyed early on in his career.

"“We always were a contender, and we were always in the playoffs,” Bastardo said. “Winning is the best thing you can do in baseball.”"

That mentality should gel well with his fellow members of the Shark Tank – the elite Pirates relief corps that is anchored by Watson and closer Mark Melancon, who stepped in to replace Jason Grilli without missing a beat. Bastardo joining the ranks only adds to the intrigue of this team’s bullpen, which is already one of the best in the league.

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Bastardo will make $3.1 million this season – which trails only Melancon’s $5.4 million salary in 2015 – and with Watson under team control through 2017, it’s hard to imagine the Bucs will add the southpaw long-term after this year.

That being said, he has the opportunity to establish himself as one of the premier left-handed options in the National League in 2015. Helping the Pirates finally get over the hump and win a postseason series would be a nice feather in his cap heading into free agency next winter.

For now, though, he’ll play second fiddle to Tony Watson in the Bucs’ bullpen.

Next: Pirates' Cervelli looking to prove he's a starter this spring