The Phillies have three very good relievers in Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson and Pat Neshek.
Do they have enough in the bullpen besides that trio? It highlights the importance of the Phillies getting the production Hector Neris gave them in the second half of 2018, when he struck out half the batters he faced.
If Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos cannot step up and seize roles as they did last season, the bullpen could be a concern. Arano struggled badly again Saturday vs. the Astros, allowing six runs without recording an out. In three innings this spring, Arano has allowed 21 baserunners and has an ERA of 51.00.
Spring training numbers aren’t super meaningful, but it’s hard to look past them when they’re that bad.
Arano, with his sinker-slider combo, was very good for most of 2018. Manager Gabe Kapler referred more than once to his “stones” — a euphemism we shouldn’t need to explain.
Arano does have minor-league options left and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s pitched his way off the opening day roster.
If the Phillies open with an eight-man bullpen, Dominguez, Robertson, Neshek and Neris are locks. Lefties Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez — both out of options — appear to be as well.
Those final two spots are up for grabs, especially with Tommy Hunter still sidelined by a flexor strain.
The Phillies have an exciting young right-hander in Edgar Garcia, who could make a Dominguez-like impact in 2019. But he was optioned to Triple A on March 11, making him unlikely to contribute right away.
Yacksel Rios could make this team out of camp. He’s looked great this spring and can touch the upper-90s. If the focus is what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, he should be in Philly on March 28.
Juan Nicasio, making $9M in the last year of his contract, could make the club by default.
But if the Phillies are unsure whether this unit can protect enough leads ... Craig Kimbrel is still out there. Even at this point, you’re not getting him for cheap. Signing Kimbrel might require only a two-year commitment at this point but it would still take the Phillies right up against the luxury tax threshold, which has more meaningful ramifications down the road than just this season (see story).
Former Phillie Ryan Madson, now 38 years old, is also still out there. Like Kimbrel, he’s been unsatisfied with the offers he’s received. Madson was excellent in 2017 (1.83 ERA in 60 appearances) but last season had his highest ERA (5.47) since becoming a full-time reliever in 2007. He wouldn’t cost nearly as much as Kimbrel.
Opening day is 12 days away. We’ll see whether the Phillies are confident enough in this bunch to protect the leads they’ll have more frequently this season.
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