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Phillies Beat with Destiny Lugardo

The 2020 Phillies bullpen: Where are they now?

29 different pitchers, if you include Neil Walker, took the mound for the Phillies in 2020. All but five of them (Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Spencer Howard and Adonis Medina) made at least one appearance out of the bullpen. 15 of those 29 pitchers are still in the organization and the rest are elsewhere. 24 men have the honor of saying they were a part of the second-worst bullpen in baseball history, a feat that none of them are proud of.

Former Phillies reliever David Phelps is off to an excellent start in Toronto. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

All of them are still employed. Here’s a look at where every member of last year’s unforgettable bullpen landed on their feet.

Nick Pivetta – Boston Red Sox starting pitcher

The Phillies finally parted ways with Pivetta on Aug. 21 in a trade that sent Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman to Philadelphia.

It may go down as one of the worst trades in Phillies history, but not because the Phillies gave up on the Canadian-born right-hander. We’ll get into how horrible both Hembree and Workman were during their time in red pinstripes a little later.

Pivetta’s Red Sox tenure has gotten off to a pretty decent start. In his first start of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays, Pivetta allowed only two hits through five shutout innings. He walked four, struck out four and threw 92 pitches. In his second start on Sunday, Pivetta allowed a three-run home run to none other than Maikel Franco.

Deolis Guerra – Oakland Athletics relief pitcher

The Phillies claimed Deolis Guerra off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers on Feb. 5, 2020. He made the Opening Day roster and pitched to an 8.59 ERA before he was designated for assignment on Aug. 22.

He made the A’s roster out of spring training. Oddly enough, Guerra was released from his minor-league deal and re-signed almost immediately. He has allowed one earned run over two innings in one appearance for Oakland.

Brandon Workman – Chicago Cubs relief pitcher

Workman was called upon to be the Phillies’ closer following a trade from Boston. His inability to locate his curveball was just one of his many downfalls. He gave up 10 earned runs, including four home runs, in 13 innings pitched.

The 32-year-old signed a guaranteed deal with the Cubs prior to spring training. He has three scoreless outings against Pittsburgh to his name but gave up a three-run home run to Lorenzo Cain in the 10th inning of a loss against the Brewers on April 7.

Workman is currently on the COVID IL.

David Phelps – Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher

The Phillies traded for Phelps at the deadline and you guessed, it didn’t work out. His struggles were a surprise considering the success he was having in Milwaukee prior to the trade. His ERA with the Phillies was more than 10 runs higher compared to his first half with the Brewers.

Like Workman, Phelps got a major-league deal following a rough stint with the Phillies. He has one start as an opener and has a 0.00 ERA through five appearances.

Cole Irvin – Oakland Athletics starting pitcher

The 2018 International League pitcher of the year was traded to the A’s for cash considerations. He allowed two earned runs through 18 innings in spring training, earning a spot on the A’s Opening Day roster. Irvin is now apart of his new team’s starting rotation, but he’s struggled in his first two appearances, allowing nine earned runs through eight innings.

José Álvarez – San Francisco Giants relief pitcher

José Álvarez doesn’t deserve to be associated with the 2020 bullpen because he’s been one of team’s more consistent pitchers in his two years with Philadelphia. A 3.17 ERA in 65 1/3 is excellent but his season last year was cut short in Buffalo after a line drive caught him right in the groin area. The Phillies probably should have given him an invite to spring training this year, but they chose to give that spot to Tony Watson, who did not make the team.

This seems consistent with Álvarez’s luck, but in two outings with Gabe Kapler’s Giants, he has an 0-1 record with a 0.00 ERA. It’s a bad idea to walk three guys in an inning with a ghost runner on second.

Blake Parker – Relief pitcher at Cleveland’s alternate site

Somehow, Blake Parker overcame the odds to become one of the Phillies’ best relievers in 2020. He limited right-handed hitters to a .143 batting average and was 2-for-2 in stranding the runner at second during extra innings.

Unfortunately for Parker, he struggled this spring and did not make the big-league roster. He spent the beginning of last season in Lehigh Valley, so the hope is that Parker can make it back up sooner rather than later.

Tommy Hunter – Relief pitcher at Mets’ alternate site

With the way the Mets’ bullpen has looked this season, Tommy Hunter could be close to finding his way back to the major leagues. He signed a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training with New York and did not make the team.

While former GM Matt Klentak counted upon Hunter to pitch high-leverage innings in 2020, it was clear that the 34-year-old was not fit for that role. Hunter’s three-year tenure in Philadelphia will go down as a disappointment, but he wasn’t a total disaster in 2020. Among NL relievers last season, Hunter ranked eighth in inherited runners stranded percentage (85.8%) and ninth in holds (eight).

Adam Morgan – Chicago Cubs relief pitcher

Morgan, who was once a highly touted pitching prospect in the Phillies organization. was non-tendered in the offseason following flexor tendon surgery. He’ll end his Phillies career with a 4.84 ERA in six years with the team. The recovery timeline for his injury is six to nine months, so it may be a couple of months before we see him pitch again.

Austin Davis – Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher

Austin Davis was traded to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later last August. That player to be named later turned out to be Joel Cesar, who has not pitched above High-A, but could top 100 mph. Davis suffered a left elbow strain in spring training and was placed on the 60-day injured list, but has reportedly been cleared to begin throwing bullpen sessions.

Reggie McClain – Relief pitcher at Yankees’ alternate site

The Phillies lost Reggie McClain in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft last December to the Yankees. He gave up three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in 2020. His Phillies tenure seemed much longer than that because in between Opening Day and his eventual outright off the 40-man roster, McClain was on both the paternity list and IL with a shoulder issue.

Trevor Kelley – Pitcher in Cubs organization

There’s just something about the Chicago Cubs and 2020 Phillies bullpen arms. Trevor Kelley was signed to a minor-league deal in December. He’s not on the Cubs’ alternate site roster, so hopefully he’ll play for the Triple-A affiliate in Iowa.

Kelley was the prototypical 2020 bullpen acquisition: Claimed off waivers in the boring part of the offseason and designated for assignment in August.

Garrett Cleavinger – Relief pitcher at Dodgers’ alternate site

Garrett Cleavinger’s cup of coffee in the big leagues last year was not pleasant as he gave up a home run in 2/3 of an inning. He is still on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster and was on the taxi squad for the team’s first road trip of the season. In Philadelphia, he’ll probably be known as the guy the Phillies traded in the three-way deal for José Alvarado.

Heath Hembree – Relief pitcher at Reds’ alternate site

Heath Hembree fooled everyone when he looked more than competent in his first outing as a Phillie. He ended his Phillies career by allowing at least one earned run in eight of his 11 outings, including four in his final appearance against the Blue Jays. His season ended prematurely with an IL stint. Opponents slugged 1.000 and had an OPS of 1.480 while Hembree was on the mound for the Phillies. Good riddance.

He entered this year’s camp on a minor-league deal with Cleveland. After missing out on a spot on the big-league roster, Hembree inked a minor-league deal with Cincinnati.


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