Everyone February there is a magical moment that brings a tingle to every baseball fan’s spine. You reflexively adjust the brim of your hat. you spin a magical ball through your fingers. Your shoulder gets loose and your elbow suddenly feels elastic. Only one event can cause these feelings. Phillies pitchers and catchers have reported to Clearwater. Spring training has begun.
We relished in that magic for about an hour or two. Now we ask the questions,
Who are the 4th and 5th Starters?
It is a reasonable assumption to pencil in Zach Eflin as the 4th starter. His numerical position in the rotation though isn’t set but he is full of talent and pitched decently last season. His durability has to improve, and if he can put together a full season of decent pitching it might be a boon to the back of the rotation.
The 5th spot comes down to Vince Velazquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez. Velazquez has proven to be flexible and might become a bullpen candidate. It’s possible that he could get the first crack in the rotation simply because he could get moved out of it easier than the other pitchers.
Pivetta is in a put up or shut up situation. After being a trendy breakout player pick last season, he face planted hard on the season. Like the other two pitchers we’ve mentioned, Pivetta has all the physical tools to become a very good pitcher. For the Phillies to contented, we have to see it now though. If the staff doesn’t improve then this season is over before it starts.
The odd man out might be Cole Irvin. What is unique about Irvin is that….he’s left handed. Lefties have been persona no grata in the starting lineup the last two years, other than Drew Smyly, who started a handful of games. Irvin has pitched well in the minors, and is kind of a AAAA player at this point. He’s got a big opportunity to impress a new coaching staff and secure a place in the roster.
Let’s not forget about Ranger Suarez though. Another lefty, and one who pitched pretty well last year out of the bullpen. He has some starting experience and it’s possible that again under a new regime he could carve out a spot for himself as a spot starter or maybe even the 5th.
In the summer these decisions could become moot because it’s possible that Spencer Howard, Adonis Medina and Enyel De Los Santos could all be ready and challenge for starting spots or bullpen assignments.
Will Tommy Hunter and David Robertson Ever Be Healthy?
Both guys threw less than 10 innings last year for the Phils. Now Hunter is healthy and will be in camp on a minor league deal so he’s got a real shot. Up until last year he was a productive reliever, and if he returns to 2018 form then that helps the team’s biggest weakness.
Robertson is coming off of Tommy John surgery, and likely won’t be available till mid summer. So think of him as a trade deadline acquisition if he can return. It isn’t a spring training question per say, but we’ll see as to who steps up in his place. There are a lot of live arms (allegedly) in camp this year so spots will get filled.
Who Is The Closer?
Once, Seranthony Dominguez tantalized us with his velocity and was the heir apparent to the closer role. It didn’t work out in 2018, and in 2019 he only got into 27 games before being put on the shelf.
Hector Neris has been the closer by default. With 28 last year in 34 opportunities he did decently in the role, but it would be too soon to declare it his.
Again with a new staff everything is on the table and we could see a battle between the two. Neris will likely get the opportunity first, but it is too early to count Dominguez out.
Do you have any burning Phillies questions? A best guess as to who makes the bullpen from the mass of invitees? Let us know!