The leading topic of every Philadelphia sports radio show in the past week has been the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. And no, definitely not in a positive way like the New York Yankees or Oakland Athletics. The Phillies bullpen enters play on Saturday night with the worst ERA in the MLB at 7.89. The lineup is executing as of late, but if they want any shot at contending, some serious work needs to be done with this unit.
Coming Back From Injury
RHP David Robertson
David Robertson is a guy who has a track record with manager Joe Girardi from his seven years with the Yankees. He only appeared in seven games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019 after being a key acquisition in the off-season. This was due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He had a 22-pitch bullpen Friday and expects to return at some point this season.
LHP Ranger Suarez
The 24-year-old lefty, Ranger Suarez, should be returning soon after starting the year on the IL due to COVID-19. Suarez impressed in minimal time last year pitching out of the pen to a 3.14 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched. This is a more than capable young-arm who could help the club in no time.
Within the System
RHP Connor Brogdon
This is a 25-year-old who spent time at three different levels for the Phillies in 2019 without ever getting the call-up. Connor Brogdon has a phenomenal career 2.50 ERA in the minors with an 11.5 K/9. After striking out 14.8 per nine in Double-A and 12.2 in Lehigh Valley he appears ready for the big leagues following a strong summer camp.
LHP Damon Jones
In Damon Jones, they have a talented arm whose future is uncertain on whether it will be in the rotation or bullpen. Jones spent most of his 2019 as a starter in the Phillies system at all three levels. He really struggled in Triple-A with Lehigh Valley starting eight games with a 6.62 ERA. The 25-year old could serve a role in the bullpen whether or not that is where he ends up long term.
RHP Addison Russ
The last of this 25-year-old bunch has the least experience pitching at high levels of minor league baseball. Addison Russ spent all of last year in Double-A as a reliever keeping his ERA at an impressive 2.54 clip. He has strikeout stuff that played in spring training due to his above-average splitter.
Potential Trade Targets
RHP Ken Giles Blue Jays
Ken Giles is definitely the most intriguing trade candidate for the Phillies due to the organization’s familiarity. However, he has not always had the cleanest resume personality-wise. “100 Mile Giles” was electric during his time with the Phillies and was traded because of the rebuild they were enduring at the time. Giles is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter making him likely to be dealt assuming the Blue Jays fall out of the race.
RHP Mychal Givens Orioles
Mychal Givens is a guy who has been mentioned in trade talks for some time as an excellent reliever on a terrible team. Things are a little bit different right now with the expanded playoffs slightly opening the door for a 7-7 Baltimore Orioles team exceeding expectations so far. With a year left of club control, the 29-year-old who is known for his velocity could be a huge asset for the Phillies at the deadline.
RHP Ian Kennedy Royals
The 35-year-old veteran, Ian Kennedy, flew under the radar last year quietly saving 30 games with a 3.41 ERA. His large contract has made him unmovable the past couple deadlines but with an expiring contract, this might be the year he gets dealt.
RHP Joe Jimenez Tigers
Joe Jimenez is a low key name if the Phillies are looking for a younger pitcher with several years of control left. Similarly to the Orioles, the surprise 7-5 Detroit Tigers could hang onto their guys if they find themselves making noise. Jimenez has a live arm with the ability to miss bats at a high rate but he has not gotten off to a good start in 2020.
RHP Keone Kela Pirates
Keone Kela is a really interesting name given the fact that he’s been held out of the season so far due to COVID-19. The 3-12 Pittsburgh Pirates are clearly not contenders and have announced Kela will become their closer upon return. The 27-year-old might just have the best stuff on this list however he also comes with major character concerns.
All of this being said, the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen managed to fire off three-innings of excellent work on Saturday night to close out the Atlanta Braves. And the game before that Hector Neris closed out the Yankees with a clean, five-out save. Has it been an overreaction in the first week? To some extent, but that does not take away from the clear lack of reliability and depth within this group.
In Saturday’s post-game press conference Girardi officially announced that their top pitching prospect and 36th-best in baseball, Spencer Howard will be making his debut on Sunday, August 8. He would not clarify on whether it will be game one or two of the double-header which will depend on Atlanta’s starters.
Moving forward, Howard’s call-up should also have major implications on the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. If he is able to stay in the rotation, it could send Vince Velasquez into a relief role. Otherwise, Howard could become a spot starter while helping in the pen along the way.
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