Last week, the Phillies announced they were going to bring back right handed pitcher Blake Parker on a MiLB contract. The deal included an invite to MLB Spring Training. Parker will not be the only arm from last season rejoining the team’s bullpen core this spring in Clearwater, Florida.
According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, fellow reliever Tommy Hunter has also resigned with the organization. Despite appearing in just 5 games for the Phillies in 2019 due to a forearm strain, the 33 year old righthander is a 12 year veteran with a strong track record pitching in the big leagues. He’s served to be a valuable reliever for a number of winning teams. If anything, Hunter could use his veteran experience to serve as a mentor to the otherwise mostly young group of pitchers auditioning for a roster spot in 2020.
Although the additions of both Parker and Hunter may serve to provide depth to Joe Girardi’s bullpen group, the team is still lacking a shutdown reliever to coexist late game with Hector Neris. Over the past decade, the Phillies have worked tirelessly to improve the back end of the pen’. Examples of this include when the team signed Jonathan Papelbon and Chad Qualls prior to the 2012 season, Pat Neshek and the before mentioned Tommy Hunter prior to the 2018 season, and the now 2nd year Phillie’ David Robertson prior to the 2019 season.
Even while the 2019 campaign was still in progress, the Phillies front office made adding relief pitching to their team a priority. Mike Moran and Blake Parker were added from the Twins prior to last season’s trade deadline to bolster an already injury filled relief core.
The Phillies entered the 2019 season with 8 relief pitchers on the opening day roster. Throughout the course of the season, 6 of them spent time on the injured list.
Amongst that list are righthanders Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano. Both, health permitting, are two names to look out for heading into 2020. Injuries have derailed the development of both pitchers. However, both have shown taking a key out at the big league level.
From the left hand side, second year Phillie’ Jose Alvarez is someone to keep an eye on. If the southpaw can avoid another slow start, he could potentially be placed into a set up role.
The bottom line is this:
No matter who the Phillies bring in to help shorten games for their starters, the relievers they currently have on roster need to take a step forward. If the kids in pen’ can get back in uniform, they will have a much better chance to make the postseason.