The Phillies have had weird bullpen issues.
- Once carrying six relievers while preferring the services of utility man Ty Kelly.
- Promoting starter Jake Thompson to the bullpen, despite having a tough season in triple-A, where he pitched with one- then two-days rest and was shelled in two outings.
- Saying who was the closer, then not ever again saying who was the closer.
- Apparently, other communication things.
The Phils just fixed one of the problems by demoting Thompson and promoting quintessential AAAA guy Luis Garcia. And hopefully we’re past the other stuff.
But don’t expect any more changes for now, at least until Jeanmar Gomez returns from the disabled list. That’s because the Phils are at the limit on the 40-man roster with few viable relief options.
- Hector Neris (MLB)
- Joaquin Benoit (MLB)
- Pat Neshek (MLB)
- Edubray Ramos (MLB)
- Joely Rodriguez (MLB)
- Luis Garcia (MLB)
- Mark Leiter Jr. (MLB)
- Jeanmar Gomez (10-day DL)
- Adam Morgan (AAA)
That’s it. The Phils could bring up a triple-A starter to play long man, but – like with Thompson – that’s not optimal for a pitcher’s development. Currently the triple-A rotation is Thompson (6.65 ERA, 23 K, 11 BB), Ben Lively (2.48 ERA, 24 K, 5 BB), Ricardo Pinto (5.35 ERA, 25 K, 15 BB), Mark Appel (5.93 ERA, 22 K, 13 BB) and Tom Eshelman (0.00 ERA, 6 K, 1 BB). Of the five, the only pitcher that makes sense in a relief role is Appel, but then the Phils could be deciding it’s time to change his role and approach. That’s a big step that could take more than just putting a guy in the bullpen. That said, you want to maximize the value of your arms, and arms have maximum value if they’re out there 200 innings per season, not 75.
But, hey, Morgan’s there, and he makes sense as a long man, right? Well, he has a 6.75 ERA in 10.2 innings this season. So do you want a warm body (heck, Garcia [5.79 ERA] is basically that, as well) as a long man, or do you want a potentially effective reliever in a somewhat volatile bullpen?
But this is why things may not change. The 40-man is full and there are only nine relievers on the list.
If the Phils wanted to begin overhauling the bullpen, they’d have to remove players from the 40-man roster and thus expose them to waivers. Morgan would be the most obvious candidate among pitchers, seeing as the 27-year-old hasn’t been able to stick for too long in a major league rotation or bullpen. Otherwise the Phils would have to gamble with exposing someone like Alberto Tirado to waivers – that’s probably not the best idea yet, even if the hard-throwing righty has a 4.45 ERA and 4:3 K:BB ratio in Clearwater, a place he can’t seem to shake.
The only hitter worth freeing from the 40-man roster is Kelly, but he’s also an unusual case. Signed when Howie Kendrick got hurt, Kelly filled the role of “guy you call up from triple-A when you don’t want to promote prospects, either because of service time, lack of real playing time or performance.” Typically the Phils would have a guy like that on the 40-man (last year’s was Taylor Featherston), but heading into 2017 they didn’t, since all the spots were taken up by said prospects. So, for now, as long as the Phils aren’t ready to call up Roman Quinn, Rhys Hoskins or anyone like that, Kelly has to stay.
So, unless Matt Klentak and Co. finally decide to give up on Morgan or Garcia (or the front office makes a substantial trade in May), you’ll see the same bullpen for a little while.
Which is kind of a shame. Because here are some IronPig relievers that aren’t on the 40-man roster:
- Cesar Ramos (RHP): 19.1 IP, 2.79 ERA, 16 K, 5 BB
- Pedro Beato (RHP): 16.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 14 K, 6 BB
- Pat Venditte (SHP): 16.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 20 K, 10 BB
- Hoby Milner (LHP): 12.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 10 K, 0 BB
But remember, the bullpen isn’t *that* bad.