The fight for the final spot in the Phillies’ bullpen
Although there has been no official word about the Phillies’ starting rotation, it’s safe to say that the decisions have been made. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Matt Moore, and Chase Anderson will be the Phillies’ starting rotation in 2021.
The bullpen however, remains uncertain. The Phillies will most likely carry eight bullpen arms this season. Here’s a look at where we currently stand with less than a week remaining in Spring Training.
Hector Neris, Archie Bradley, and Jose Alvarado are all locks to make the bullpen. All three pitchers have performed well during Grapefruit League play. It has yet to be decided who will earn the closer role for the Phillies, but if I’m Joe Girardi, the search starts and ends with one of these three pitchers. Hector Neris has 72 career saves, Archie Bradley has 28 career saves, and Jose Alvarado has 15 career saves. Hector Neris will likely start the season at closer, but the difference between this year and years past is the fact that the Phillies actually have legitimate options to close out games if Neris doesn’t perform well.
The next line of bullpen arms which are the favorites to make the final eight selections would be Connor Brogdon and JoJo Romero. Brogdon pitched extremely well last September, striking out 14 batters and walking only two in 8 2/3 scoreless innings. He has struck out five and walked three in four scoreless innings this Spring. Romero also flashed some great moments last year. This Spring, he has struck out eight batters and allowed eight hits, only surrendering one run and three walks in 7 2/3 Grapefruit league innings.
You now have five pitchers locking up the eight available bullpen spots. From here, this is where things will get tricky. Atop of the list you have Sam Coonrod. The Phillies signed Coonrod during the offseason and he throws extremely hard. He’s allowed one run on three hits this Spring, while striking out seven and walking two in 7 1/3 innings. If Coonrod can make the Opening Day bullpen roster, then that would mean that either at least one of the next tier of arms will not. Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson, and Hector Rondon all entered Spring Training on minor league deals with hopes to earn a roster spot come Opening Day.
Brandon Kintzler has the best chance to make the bullpen roster given the fact that he has a 1.04 ERA in 8 2/3 innings this Spring, striking out nine while allowing 10 hits and two walks. The other two pitchers, Watson and Rondon, have not pitched well this Spring and should be considered bubble arms. Watson has a 7.20 ERA this Spring while pitching only five innings. He’s struck out seven and has allowed nine hits and two walks. As for Rondon, he’s a long shot after posting a 7.71 ERA this Spring.
Ruling Rondon out, you now have Kintzler and Watson both looking to secure the final two spots in the bullpen assuming the other pitchers above all make the roster. Kintzler had a 2.22 ERA and 12 saves last season with the Marlins in 24 appearances. Watson had a 2.50 ERA and two saves in 21 appearances with the Giants. Kintzler makes the most sense given the fact that he has out-pitched Watson this Spring.
Why wouldn’t both of them make the roster? The Phillies still have to figure out what to do with Vince Velasquez, Spencer Howard, and David Hale. You essentially have five pitchers fighting for the final spot in the bullpen.
- Hector Neris
- Archie Bradley
- Jose Alvarado
- Connor Brogdon
- JoJo Romero
- Sam Coonrod
- Brandon Kintzler
- Velasquez / Watson / Howard / Hale / Rondon
Spencer Howard would be interesting as the eighth and final pitcher in the bullpen, but if I had to guess, I would say that he starts the season in Triple-A. The Phillies hope to manage his workload and first and foremost, keep him healthy. Howard has been dealing with some back spasms this Spring which will likely land him in Triple-A. Can Howard pitch at the major league level? Absolutely. However, getting him in a regular starting rotation in Triple-A will better prepare him for the future.
Vincent Velasquez will likely be the last arm to make the Phillies bullpen out of Spring Training. Tony Watson, David Hale, and Hector Rondon haven’t impressed much and for whatever reason, the Phillies can’t seem to let go of Vincent Velasquez. I have been a long believer that Velasquez would find the most success in the bullpen so I am definitely okay with this decision if it goes in his favor.
Answers are coming soon. We should have a very clear picture on how the Phillies’ want their bullpen to look in the coming days.
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY SPORTS