Phillies Spring Training Position Preview: Bullpen

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Sep 12, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Pirates, 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies should have an improved bullpen this season as they made several noteworthy acquisitions this winter to bolster the young core.

The Philadelphia Phillies will head into spring training with high hopes and some new faces in the bullpen. New acquisitions, familiar faces and young talent with all head to Clearwater with one goal come February 13th.

Pitchers Who Are Locks

Jeanmar Gomez

It was a tale of two halves for the 28-year-old righty from Venezuela. Gomez showed glimpses of brilliance before the All-Star break, including a very respectable 2.59 ERA to go along with 24 saves. However, it all went off the rails in the second half:

    Split    W L W-L%  ERA  G GS GF CG SHO SV   IP  H  R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP  BF  WHIP SO9 SO/W    1st Half 3 2 .600 2.59 39  0 37  0   0 24 41.2 36 12 12  3 10   1 26   1  0  0 166 1.104 5.6 2.60    2nd Half 0 3 .000 8.33 31  0 22  0   0 13 27.0 42 26 25  3 12   1 21   1  0  3 131 2.000 7.0 1.75

As shown above, Gomez’s second half was worse in nearly every category and was concerning to say the least. Gomez will still enter 2017 with a solidified job, however, the competition for the closer role is wide open

Pat Neshek

The journeyman side-slinger joins the Phillies after two seasons in Houston. Neshek, 36, brings with him a career 2.93 ERA in 423 appearances. Neshek should have little problem making the roster and should bring nice trade value come the deadline.

Phillies

Sep 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Joaquin Benoit (53) pitches against the New York Yankees in the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Joaquin Benoit

Benoit is an interesting case.

He was horrendous for Seattle, posting a 5.18 ERA in just 24.1 innings of work. However, a change of scenery (and country) brought out the best in the 15 year veteran. In 23.1 innings with Toronto, the 39-year-old posted an astounding 0.38 era, allowing just one earned run in 25 appearances.

Given his veteran status and second half performance, Benoit should break camp with the Phils while possibly serving as the team’s primary closer.

Hector Neris

Neris was impressive in 2016 and will look to expand on that this season. The right-handed Dominican punched out 102 batters in just over 80 innings of work while posting a WHIP of 1.108. Look for Neris to compete for a late inning set up role, however, with veterans in front of him, he may see himself relegated to more of a bridge role.

Mar 30, 2016; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Sean Burnett (17) throws in the third inning during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 30, 2016; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Sean Burnett (17) throws in the third inning during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Every bullpen needs a left-handed specialist, and it appears there will be plenty of competition come spring training.

Joely Rodriguez 

Rodriguez, 25, has less than 10 innings of Major League experience under his belt but is the only lefty currently listed on the Phillies bullpen depth chart. Last season was kind to the young Dominican as he pitched to a 7-0 while posting a 2.35 ERA over three different levels of Minor League ball. Look for Rodriguez to join the Phils as they head north, however, he’ll be on a short leash due to inexperience and some veterans chasing the spot.

Sean Burnett

Burnett is a complete wild card. The 34-year-old enters 2017 after seeing time in just 26 games since 2012 and it’s hard to expect much more from him this season. Burnett will need to show some promise in camp to join the club Opening Day but it seems to be a long shot.

Cesar Ramos

Ramos is the southpaw to watch comes mid-February. The 32-year old struggled last season with Texas but proved himself to be quite successful in previous seasons.

Year                      Age            Tm            Lg  W  L W-L%  ERA   G GS GF CG SHO SV    IP   H   R  ER HR  BB IBB  SO HBP BK WP   BF ERA+  FIP  WHIP   H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W Awards2014                       30           TBR            AL  2  6 .250 3.70  43  7 14  0   0  0  82.2  73  39  34  8  39   7  66   1  0  4  360  101 4.24 1.355  7.9 0.9 4.2 7.2        1.692015                       31           LAA            AL  2  1 .667 2.75  65  0 21  0   0  0  52.1  55  17  16  2  15   0  43   3  0  5  221  138 3.02 1.338  9.5 0.3 2.6 7.4        2.872016                       32           TEX            AL  3  3 .500 6.04  16  4  2  0   0  1  47.2  60  34  32 12  20   1  27   1  0  0  212   75 6.61 1.678 11.3 2.3 3.8 5.1        1.35

It is reasonable to think that Ramos will join Rodriguez on the 25-man-roster when all is said and done with the best man landing the lefty specialist role as the season progresses.

Adam Morgan

With so much talent in front of him, Morgan will likely see himself relegated to the bullpen, if not the minors. The decision may have already been made by manager Pete Mackanin and it will take an impressive showing this spring to change his mind.

Aug 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Luis Garcia (57) pitches during the twelfth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park. The Philadelphia Phillies won 5-4 in the twelfth inning. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Luis Garcia (57) pitches during the twelfth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park. The Philadelphia Phillies won 5-4 in the twelfth inning. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The rest of the bullpen situation is wide open.

One of the remaining spots could be filled by 24 year old Edubray Ramos who managed a 3.83 ERA in 42 games as a rookie.

Another option in the pen would be the incumbent, Luis Garcia. He’s average on most days and maintains too high of a WHIP (1.688) to make any coach feel comfortable. He could be the odd man out in an improved, more experienced bullpen.

A few non-roster invitees may join the mix come Opening Day, led by familiar faces Michael Mariot, Dailer Hinojosa and Colton Murray. Each of the three have seen time in red pinstripes and will likely be up and down for a solid portion of the season.

Make sure to keep a look out for a young gunslinger by the name of Alberto Tirado this spring as you will see him in the future. Tirado, acquired in the Ben Revere deal with Toronto, struck out 102 batters in 64.2 innings in 2016. Although the 22-year-old struggled in his two appearances in High-A, look for him to move through the Phillies system swiftly especially with a good showing in March.

Jul 31, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; General view of the outfield scoreboard and bullpen at dusk in a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 31, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; General view of the outfield scoreboard and bullpen at dusk in a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Expect to see a lot of moving parts for Philadelphia in 2017 and the bullpen will be no different. The team did a nice job adding a nice mix of veterans with proven track records to mentor some of the younger relievers on this Phillies team. However, like all bullpens, health will be a contributing factor in determining which way this bullpen trends in the upcoming campaign and with so many older signings, it’s hard to predict who will make it through a full season.

Regardless, you can pretty much bet that this bullpen will look quite different in August than it will in April.

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