One of the veterans the Phillies signed to revamp their bullpen is close to returning.
Brandon Kintzler, out since June 8 with a neck strain, should be back during the Phils' homestand this week. He was at Citizens Bank Park Wednesday afternoon and said he's felt good during his rehab assignment with Triple A Lehigh Valley and is eager to get back on a big-league mound.
Kintzler, who's made two scoreless appearances for the IronPigs, says he pitched through pain for six weeks, which partially explains how a pitcher who had a 2.55 ERA in 2019 and 2020 allowed 18 runs in 18 innings for the Phillies.
"I can see now, I can look at people, rotate my head, turn my body," he said. "My back was really locked up, it was the C6-C7 disc irritating me.
"I'd never had it. Really, after the vaccine, I felt like my body really shut down. It knocks you out and then we had a game, I pitched two innings and my body ... I think everyone should recover for like a week after that thing. Archie (Bradley) strained his oblique after it, (Matt) Joyce had a back problem."
Kintzler is looking for a fresh start to his season similar to Matt Moore, who pitched five scoreless innings last Friday in his first start in six weeks. Moore is back in the Phillies' rotation after missing time on the COVID list and with a back injury. He will start Saturday. Kintzler could be back in the bullpen as soon as Thursday. Manager Joe Girardi said a decision would be made after Wednesday's game against the Marlins.
"A healthy me would be really nice," he said when asked about the bullpen's struggles. "I think my experience would definitely take the load off of these guys. Just be myself, I don't need to be a hero. Just be a healthy Kintzler as opposed to a (bleeped)-up Kintzler."
Prior to the injury, one of the ways Kintzler provided the Phillies value was as a bridge reliever capable of giving Joe Girardi length. He made five appearances longer than an inning and recorded five outs twice. In only one of those five games did he give up a run.
Girardi desperately needs some reliable arms to turn to out of the 'pen as the calendar flips to July. What the Phillies experienced in June was closer to 2020 than anyone would have liked, particularly late in the month. The Phils' bullpen has a 7.34 ERA since June 20.
"We're all human. You can hear it," Kintzler said. "You can feel it. But you've just got to get ready for the next one. All you need is one good one and then you just take off from there."
Easier said than done?