Phillies: Thinking some rosy thoughts about those pitchers

Like Morgan, Alvarez is more than a lefty specialist. Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images.
Like Morgan, Alvarez is more than a lefty specialist. Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images. /
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Philadelphia Phillies
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Who Has to Only Under-deliver in 49 Games?

Potential No. 5 starters – begin obviously with either Velasquez or Eflin, whoever isn’t number four. Add then four others, three of whom Phillies fans are eager to see, and one not so much:

·         Spencer Howard – Matt Breen of The Athletic (pay site) recently suggested the Phillies might not actually use the 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander that much this spring, preferring to “conserve his innings for later in the season.” Expect to see him at some point. The 23-year-old has started 47 of 47 games he’s pitched in the minors, completing one and posting a 1.136 WHIP.

·         Cole Irvin – Breen offered the best news about this motley crew of starters in regard to Irvin, noting that his fastball “was 92-93 mph in September after some mechanical tweaks in the bullpen. A huge difference, if he can maintain it.” He’d better, or he’ll never stick. The left-hander was not terribly effective with the 88-89 he was throwing earlier. He could start, relieve, or go to Triple-A and do that.

·         Ranger Suarez – The age-24 lefty was draped with Breen’s most intriguing comment. Suarez “might return to starting” after some good work in challenging situations out of the bullpen. He has won 11 of his 14 MLB decisions despite an ERA of 3.68.

·         Nick Pivetta – Along with Eflin and Velasquez, Pivetta has lost the faith of most Phillies fans. The righty does throw hard. Price has made noises to the effect that he still has potential.

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Promising potential relievers it is hoped will contribute:

·         Adam Morgan (age-30 season) – It is widely expected that the lefthander has one of the bullpen positions nailed down. Before his last outing last season, when he surely pitched with a flexor strain for part of that outing, his ERA was 3.07 in 39 appearances. He must stay healthy.

·         Jose Alverez (31) – With over 330 innings posted in largely short relief stints, Alvarez is perhaps the second on this list to have a position secured. He started 2019 slowly, however.

·         Victor Arano (25) – The recovering Arano has a career 2.77 ERA, but after arthroscopic surgery last spring (three games into his season), he didn’t return. His excellent slider gets swinging strikes.

·         Cristopher Sanchez (23) – The reed-thin, 6-foot-5 lefty from the Dominican Republican couldn’t crack the Rays roster. He could be a set-up contrast to Hector Neris, the presumed closer, and throws 100 mph. He needs to refine his control.

·         Seranthony Dominguez (25) – Dominguez avoided Tommy John surgery, but now is iffy and not expected to see much Spring Training action. If he’s OK, he’ll be valuable.

·         Hector Neris (31) – The veteran right-hander with the good splitter when it’s working is the default closer at this point. Career: 307 relief appearance, 311.2 total innings pitched – the very definition of a one-inning guy. Neris has a 3.29 career ERA, a 6.4 WAR in six seasons, and 67 saves, topping out at 28 in ’19. His picture is not in the dictionary next to “lock-down closer,” but then, whose is? Many such creatures remain that type of closer for exactly one season. Neris has fought through a failure of his best pitch at least once in his career thus far.

Not all of these relievers are locks to even be offered positions with the Phillies Triple-A club, Lehigh Valley, but there’s some real promise in Howard, Suarez and the relievers named here.

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And assuming a 10-10 four-slot starter base in our rosy scenario, the 11 players above or players very like them only have to post a 28-41 record in games not started by the top three starters. Simple.