Phillies pitcher is dominating competition early in winter ball season


From catcher to shortstop to that historically bad bullpen, the Phillies need to address a number of areas as they construct their 2021 roster this winter.

Starting pitching is generally considered one of the team's strengths with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin in the top three spots.

The remainder of the rotation, however, is a big question mark. Spencer Howard figures to slot into the No. 4 or No. 5 spot, but he's coming off a shaky rookie season and has missed time two straights seasons with shoulder stiffness.

Lefty Ranger Suarez, who has worked primarily out of the bullpen, would still like to start so he could be a possibility at the back end of the rotation. Vince Velasquez will be in the mix — if the Phillies bring him back. They have until Wednesday at 8 p.m. to tender him a 2021 contract or he can become a free agent.

The Phillies recently placed starting pitchers Damon Jones and Bailey Falter on the 40-man roster. They will get looks in spring training along with Cole Irvin and Adonis Medina, and the Phillies will certainly look for other candidates on a free-agent market that will swell after Wednesday night's tender deadline.

The first day of December might seem like an odd time to examine the Phillies' starting pitching depth, but not when you consider what's happened early in the Dominican winter league season.

Right-hander Ramon Rosso, who is on the Phillies' 40-man roster, is off to a dazzling start for Aguilas Cibaenas. He pitched five shutout innings to lead that club to a 6-2 win over Toros del Este on Monday night. Pairing with catcher Deivy Grullon, a former Phillie claimed on waivers by Boston in September, Rosso struck out five and walked none.


After three appearances, two starts, Rosso has given up just one hit and two walks over nine shutout innings. He has registered eight strikeouts. Not too shabby. 

Now, none of this is to suggest that Rosso is ready to be counted on by the Phillies in 2021, but it's certainly an improvement on what he showed in 2020. Rosso appeared in seven games for the Phillies in 2020 and was not good. He pitched 9⅔ innings and struck out 11. However, he gave up nine hits, eight walks and seven runs.

Rosso, 24, is 6-4 and 240 pounds. He has some power in his arm. His fastball reached 97 mph in spring training and he impressed manager Joe Girardi in winning a spot on the expanded opening day roster as a reliever. He can start or pitch out of the bullpen. The Phillies need help in both areas and you can bet they're keeping tabs on his work in winter ball, which, so far, has been very good.

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