The Philadelphia Phillies opened their 2020 spring training camp in Clearwater, Florida with more than two dozen pitchers ready to compete for a role in the team’s Opening Day bullpen.
New manager Joe Girardi spent the first few weeks getting a look at each of those arms, both in side and back field sessions and during Grapefruit League game action.
Today, the Phillies made their first decisions regarding a bunch of those pitchers. Left-handers JoJo Romero and Cristopher Sanchez were optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading respectively. Also optioned to Reading was right-hander Adonis Medina. The Phillies reassigned southpaws Damon Jones, Kyle Dohy, and Zach Warren to their minor league camp.
These are all young arms who will have a chance to help the club during the coming season, either by continuing their development and receiving a promotion later in the year, or as pieces during trade negotiations.
Right-handers Hector Neris and Seranthony Dominguez (assuming he is healthy) and lefty Jose Alvarez almost certainly will open the season with the big club. Also, veteran left-handers Adam Morgan and Francisco Liriano are good bets.
“Seranthony is a guy that we’re really going to have to measure his workload early on,” Girardi said per Matt Gelb of The Athletic as camp opened back in February. “Is it a guy you could possibly not use on back-to-back days early on? Yeah, it is. I’ve just got to see where he is physically.”
With the Phillies likely to open the regular season with eight relief pitchers, that would leave three openings up for grabs. One of those roles will likely go to the losers of the battle for the fifth-starter spot in the rotation.
Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, and Ranger Suarez are the pitchers at the front of that battle. Suarez has pitched the best thus far in the spring. But he started from behind the other two and would have to clearly beat them out to earn the role. Velasquez remains the odds-on favorite.
It is an open question as to whether or not Pivetta and/or Suarez would get bullpen roles should they lose out in the rotation. They could be sent down to the minors in order to remain stretched out as starting pitching options should injuries strike the Phillies.
Other arms still fighting for one or two openings in the bullpen include right-handers Blake Parker, Anthony Swarzak, Deolis Guerra, and Victor Arano. The first two as well as Liriano have opt-out clauses in their contracts for March 19. If they choose to opt-out, the Phillies would have 48 hours to add them to the official 40-man roster in order to keep them with the club. Tommy Hunter and David Robertson will open the season on the Injured List. Both are hoping to be able to help later in the season.
There are even more arms still in camp, but those options are likely to open in the minors with either Lehigh Valley or Reading. Last season the Phillies bullpen was decimated by injuries almost from the start of the season. They ultimately used more than two dozen relief pitchers. So, anyone who demonstrates an ability to consistently retire hitters will likely get an opportunity at some point over the next six months.
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