Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

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Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies on Saturday added to their stock of reliever candidates with the signing of veteran left-hander Fernando Abad to a minor-league contract. Abad will report to big-league camp and compete for a job on the 25-man roster.

The Phillies are likely to have an eight-man bullpen. The addition of Abad gives the Phillies four left-handed relief candidates. Adam Morgan, Hoby Milner and Zac Curtis are all on the 40-man roster. 

Morgan and Milner both shined in the second half of 2017. Morgan recorded a 1.69 ERA in 21 games over the final two months. He pitched 26 2/3 innings over that span, allowed just 16 hits and five runs, struck out 33 and walked six. Milner gave up just two runs in 21 2/3 innings over his last 27 games. He struck out 15 and managed to pitch around 12 walks. He was tough on lefty hitters (.159), but struggled against righties (.377). Curtis was a late-season waiver claim from Seattle. He pitched in just three games with the Phillies. 

Abad, 32, is an eight-year major-league veteran who has made stops in Houston, Washington, Oakland, Minnesota and Boston. He had a 3.30 ERA in 48 games with the Red Sox last season and lefties hit .227 off him.

From the right side, the Phillies have some bullpen depth with closer Hector Neris, veteran setup men Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos. Victor Arano, Ricardo Pinto, Yacksel Rios and Seranthony Dominquez are also on the 40-man roster. 

Dominguez hit 100 mph on the radar gun as a starter last season and is being converted to the bullpen. He is likely to open the season at Double A Reading, but “could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

The list of bullpen candidates also includes two veterans on minor-league contracts: Pedro Beato and Francisco Rodriguez. The latter is a 16-year veteran who has racked up 437 saves – fourth-most all-time – in his career. Rodriguez was released by the Tigers and Nationals last summer and is trying to make the Phillies as a non-roster invitee to big-league camp.

Francisco Rodriguez released by Phillies

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Francisco Rodriguez released by Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Francisco Rodriguez’s bid to revive his career with a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen ended Saturday when he was granted his unconditional release by the club.

Rodriguez, who ranks fourth all-time in saves, signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies shortly before camp began. He pitched to a 5.40 ERA in 6 2/3 innings and was tagged for 11 hits.

Rodriguez, 36, was released twice last summer, first by Detroit and then by Washington.

This might be the end of the road for Rodriguez. If it is, he had a tremendous career. He racked up 437 saves and was a six-time All-Star in 16 seasons. Only Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith have more saves.

While Rodriguez’ time in a Phillies uniform will go down as a footnote to his career, he did have the best quote of the spring early in camp.

“I love the game,” he said. “I don’t think I have to prove anything. I don’t think I went to Walmart and bought 900 appearances and 437 saves. I did that with a lot of pride and hard work. This is the only thing I know how to do, play baseball. God gave me the opportunity to throw a baseball and I’m going to continue to do it.”

Aaron Nola another Zack Greinke? A quick call-up for Scott Kingery?

Aaron Nola another Zack Greinke? A quick call-up for Scott Kingery?


BRADENTON, Fla. — Gabe Kapler played most of what figures to be his opening day lineup on Friday and the Phillies responded with one of their best games of the Grapefruit League schedule in beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-2.

The only regular not in the starting lineup was shortstop J.P. Crawford. Bench candidate Jesmuel Valentin played there (see story).

Opening day starter Aaron Nola pitched four shutout innings, gave up four hits, a walk and struck out five. He threw 64 pitches and 45 were strikes.

Maikel Franco belted two homers, both bombs to left. One was a two-run shot on a 3-0 fastball, the other a grand slam.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a good showing by the Phils without another impressive performance from the man who has been the best player in camp, Scott Kingery. He came off the bench, played center field, right field and third base, and stroked a hard single to right.

It is doubtful that Kingery will be on the opening day roster, but it’s looking more and more like he could be up with the big club as soon as April 13. If Kingery stays in the minors until then, the Phillies will control his rights through 2024. If he makes the opening day roster, he could be eligible for free agency after 2023. Keeping Kingery down for a few weeks won’t sit well with some fans, but it makes good baseball sense, especially for a team that does not project as a slam-dunk contender.

Kapler raved about a play Kingery made at third.

“Wow, wow,” the manager said. “His ability to go to his left and make that strong throw. He showed off that incredible arm and that versatility.”

Kapler also liked Franco’s power. The third baseman, entering a make-or-break season with the Phillies, is hitting just .192 on the spring, but he leads the club with five homers. Franco has closed his stance by bringing his front foot closer to the plate. He is getting more comfortable with the stance, which the Phillies hope will prompt him to use the middle of the field and stop pulling off balls.

“He attacked that 3-0 pitch,” Kapler said. “That was pretty impressive.”

Nola said he was “ready to go” for the opener.

Kapler concurred and compared Nola to a former Cy Young winner.

“Perfect tune-up for opening day, got him right where we wanted him with pitches — and he got to that pitch count by throwing strikes, a lot of them, and really attacking with pitches," Kapler said of Nola.

“He’s starting to look to me a lot like — I saw Zack Greinke in the American League when he was with Kansas City — kind of a familiar look to the way that he uses the gas pedal and the brake effectively and fills up the strike zone with all his pitches. His calm, easy, collected demeanor is really reminiscent of some of the best pitchers in baseball.”

The Phillies play the Tigers in Lakeland on Saturday.