Despite coming off back-to-back series wins over playoff contending teams, one thing has become very clear: the Phillies’ bullpen needs some serious help.
A lot of great things happened in the last six games alone: Rhys Hoskins has homered three times in the last four games, Odubel Herrera has seven hits in the last five games (two homers) and Vince Velasquez bounced back and threw 6.2 innings of incredible baseball after allowing 10 runs in 3.2 innings his previous start. The performance over the past six games was gutsy. It shows that this Phillies team, while very young and inexperienced, has an ability to fight and claw their way into a playoff spot.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s mid-June. Not only is it mid-June, but the Phillies best relief pitcher is an unproven 23 year old who rarely gets an off day. If you’re not following, the man I’m referring to is Seranthony Dominguez who’s been outright dominant since getting called up to the majors a little over a month ago. It’s a small sample size but Dominguez appeared in 17 games, has 27 strikeouts, a 1.27 ERA, a .56 WHIP and three saves.
Let me start by saying this: it’s awesome that the Phillies have a killer reliver like Dominguez. I can’t stress his importance to this team enough; he’s going to be a vital piece of this team moving forward. The only down side is that the Phillies don’t really have any other weapons in the bullpen. Let’s run through the list:
• Adam Morgan is a situational lefty who has been teetering the line between MLB and MiLB for years. He had a nice run last season but he is far from anything special. I’m still bitter about the walk-off grand slam he allowed a earlier this month
• Luis Garcia currently is on the disabled list. Per MLB.com it’s a strained wrist. Before that he has been incredibly unreliable. Like Morgan, Garcia has shown flashes in the past but he hasn’t been able to string good performances together for an entire season.
• Hector Neris is really struggling. I want to like him for what he’s done in the past but he’s been abysmal this season.
• Tommy Hunter is coming around. He did allow one run off one hit in the game against the Brewers on Sunday, but that aside he appears to be finding his stride in red pinstripes.
• Victor Arano is confusing. While he does have a nice looking ERA compared to the rest of the bullpen (1.99), Sunday’s win was the first win he’s been a part of in over a month. He has some decent stuff but he could benefit from an expanded role.
• Edubray Ramos is probably the second best reliever on the team right now. It’s hard to argue with a .69 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a save.
• Yacksel Rios is a nobody. To be honest I forgot he was on the 40 man roster and Gabe Kapler might have as well because he hasn’t pitched since May 18 when he allowed four hits and three runs against the Cardinals in a 4-12 loss.
• Jake Thompson is filling in for Luis Garcia. He picked up the save on Sunday afternoon by recording the final out after Neris did his best to blow the game but he is likely a fringe guy. This is a shame because he was solid piece in the Cole Hamels trade. Here’s hoping he sticks and gets some time in the bullpen.
• Pat Neshek is still on the DL. When he returns he should be able to bring some life to the bullpen.
There you have it. Aside from Seranthony Dominguez and Edubray Ramos, the Phillies have no real options in the bullpen. Considering they don’t have too many weapons, I completely see where Kapler is coming from by not defining roles. Last week he said that he wanted to use Dominguez in the most high leverage situations and I can’t agree more. Think about it, if the Phils find themselves with a two run lead in the seventh inning with the middle of the order up and runners in scoring position would you rather see Adam Morgan run out to the mound or Dominguez? I’ll wait.
You need to preserve the lead and give the offense a chance to pad instead of trying to stage a comeback. At this point in time you can’t trot out a pitcher like Neris, Garcia, Morgan, Thompson or Rios. You need Ramos or Dominguez in that situation. Whoever doesn’t get that opportunity should get the opportunity to close out the game.
I mentioned that Tommy Hunter has been coming around and that’s a huge help, but having three competent relievers isn’t enough to sustain a baseball team. The Phillies need bullpen help and they have a few ways of going about it.
They can buy at the deadline if the deal is right. I doubt they’ll be big spenders at the deadline because they’re a young team that’s progressing faster than suggested. They might make a move but I wouldn’t expect a blockbuster a la Ruben Amaro Jr. in 2011.
The other option is just understanding that the bullpen is a huge area of need and addressing it in the offseason and praying to God something pans out in then meantime. I have a feeling the Phillies will do a little bit of both. If they’re going to wait it out they need to do us all a favor and stop giving Hector Neris the ball in the ninth inning. He clearly can’t handle it.