The Phillies used four core relievers in Friday’s 6-2 win over the Orioles in Sarasota. Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Archie Bradley and Hector Neris combined for four perfect innings with five strikeouts.
Enyel De Los Santos followed by striking out the side in a 1-2-3 ninth.
There is a big competition in the Phillies’ bullpen and most of the relievers are meeting the moment so far in camp. That top quartet will make up half of the eight-man bullpen on opening day.
Beyond those four, the Phillies will carry four from the group of lefty Tony Watson, Brandon Kintzler, lefty JoJo Romero, David Hale, Bryan Mitchell, Hector Rondon, Michael Ynoa, and potentially Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard.
Watson, Kintzler, Mitchell, Rondon and Ynoa are all in camp as non-roster invitees.
Even De Los Santos is pushing himself back into the conversation after being removed from the 40-man roster last August.
“He’s way ahead of where he was last year,” manager Joe Girardi said of the 25-year-old De Los Santos. “He’s gotten his velocity back and it’s made a difference. He’s definitely been very interesting in camp for us.”
After last season’s mighty struggles with a contact-based bullpen that lacked premium stuff, the Phillies have revamped it into a unit that has velocity, movement, experience and different looks. While spring training results can be meaningless, you'd have to be blind to overlook the marked improvement of this relief corps' stuff and command.
“You get excited when you watch a day like today,” Girardi said, “but then you go back tonight and think, ‘Oh gosh, we’ve got 10 guys for eight spots.' And it’s going to be really difficult to pick those eight spots. That’s a good problem to have but it weighs on my mind.”
Yes, certainly a better problem than the ones caused by the 2020 bullpen.
The CF battle
While the bullpen competition has been stiff, the center field battle has not sparked much early confidence. Adam Haseley is out at least another three weeks with a groin strain, making it a three-man race between Scott Kingery, Roman Quinn and Odubel Herrera.
All three of them started Sunday, with Quinn, Kingery and Herrera batting 1-2-3. Kingery got the start in center, Quinn was in right and Herrera was the designated hitter. They went 0 for 9. Quinn and Kingery struck out twice apiece. The Phillies want to maintain a relatively low strikeout rate and it’s especially important for players like Kingery and Quinn, who do not possess big power or high on-base percentage potential.
“I keep saying we’re hoping somebody grabs it,” Girardi said. “It hasn’t happened yet. We need somebody to do it. Guys are getting an opportunity. We need somebody to grab ahold of it.”
Zach Eflin will start for the Phillies Saturday in Clearwater against the Tigers. That game will be on NBC Sports Philadelphia at 1 p.m.
Matt Moore gets the start Sunday in Bradenton against the Pirates.
Chase Anderson will start Monday in Tampa against the Yankees.
And Aaron Nola will make his fourth start of the spring on Tuesday at home against the Blue Jays. Nola threw 61 pitches in his last start Thursday and will likely work up to the 80-pitch range in that next one.
Along with Zack Wheeler, who pitched four innings Friday, this certainly looks like your five-man rotation.