By Sam Bush
There have been a lot of head cases who have pitched for the Phillies:
Tug McGraw comes to mind. His antics as a reliever in the late 1970s and 1980 — when he excelled in the Phillies’ first World Series victory — were legendary.
Now comes Jake Diekman.
Following two very promising seasons, Diekman is sent back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following a very disappointing first two months and change to 2015.
Diekman leaves with a 6.75 ERA and 14 walks over 21 1/3 innings in 25 relief appearances. He pitched well walking only and allowing no hits working 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Thursday, but his two runs allowed over two-thirds of an inning on Wednesday probably sealed his fate.
“He just needs to work on some things,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “We just talked to him and he agreed. There are some things that he needs to fine-tune and be more consistent with. He’s going to go there and work and be back as soon as possible … and hopefully have some things ironed out.”
The Phillies will add a player to replace Diekman before Friday night’s home game against the San Francisco Giants.
Asked if this demotion to the minors caught him off guard, Diekman said, “No. It’s been in the back of my mind for probably two weeks.”
“I just overthink (stuff),” Diekman said. “I gotta go down and work on stuff. Get better at first-pitch strikes. Executing pitches to be in the zone, controlling the running the game.”
Diekman was a big weapon in the Phillies bullpen the two seasons before this one. In 2014, he had a 2.58 ERA in 45 games with 41 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings. Last year he pitched to a 3.80 ERA in 73 games with 100 strikeouts in 71 innings.
This season has been a nightmare, although Diekman has been somewhat better of late. After posting a 10.0 ERA over his first 10 outings, he pitched to a 4.38 ERA over his last 15.
“The last two weeks I felt great,” he said. “Before that I think I was just fighting myself. Um … Yeah. I need to get out of my own way. I’m just in my way. I harp on things too much. ”