*Cue Spongebob Squarepants narrator voice*
Ah yes, It’s that time of year again where the baseball teams return to their humble Spring Training homes in Florida and Arizona to prepare for the upcoming season.

Moreover, The Fightin’ Phils are back in ‘Clearwooder’ ready to make a splash! The Phillies social media has been doing a great job with the player mics to get the fans involved and excited from afar.

An important aspect to look out for this season is the established roles in the bullpen that Manager Joe Girardi referred to in the offseason.

To be more specific, who is going to be the Phillies closer?

Photo: Featured Image

The Phillies completely revamped their bullpen and went out to sign Archie Bradley (28), Neftali Feliz (32), and Brandon Kintzler (36) to name a few. Aging pitchers are by no means the answer but these players have proven their resilience and determination to be here and compete. The bullpen was the third priority this offseason behind #signJT and #signDidi, and the Phillies relievers have to prove their reliability in the late game. There needs to be less pressure on the starting rotation to pitch complete games every time they go out on the mound, as well as a strong sense of security that their lead will not be squandered. 

The Phillies now have Hector Neris (25), Archie Bradley, Neftali Feliz, and Brandon Kintzler: “The Four Horsemen”.

Each one of these pitchers has had experience in the closing role and as much as Joe Girardi wants consistent roles in the bullpen, he might have more options to go to in the last four innings of the ballgame. The Phillies bullpen is going to shape the win column in the standings for them after blowing 12/23 saves in 2020. 

Hector Neris 

Number 50 has been the steadfast and most reliable closer for the Phillies since 2017. Neris has done a great job at keeping batters at bay in the final innings of games. Slowly but surely, his control became inconsistent and hitters were able to figure him out. He has a 79.1% average save percentage for his career but mostly hovers around the low to mid-80s during an individual season. 2020 was not Neris’s year but he is still a reliable reliever who can come in in the late innings as a set-up man or closer if need be.Hector Neris needs to rely more on his hallmark splitter more because his fastball was monopolized by hitters. If he wants to keep some type of closing role/late reliever then he has to be lights out and return to form. Neris needs to find more control in his pitching arsenal and he will need to prove that he deserves a late-game spot.  

Archie Bradley

Bradley is the premier relief pitcher that the Phillies signed this offseason. Phillies Phans have awaited for a proven and consistent pitcher such as this Oklahoma-native, but is the closing role the right spot for him? In 2017 and 2018, Bradley was actually given a shot to close multiple games. He had 18 save opportunities and managed to save 4/18 of them which is not a good sign for a fanbase and a city that hungers for October baseball.Archie Bradley has made his name as a late reliever for the past six years and it was only in 2019 and 2020 did he start to put up better numbers in the closing role. Bradley’s save percentage hovers around 85% over two seasons and has only had 28 opportunities, but overall has a 60.9%.This is not the most comforting statistic but Bradley’s ERA, innings pitched, and WHIP shows he is durable and reliable. These are the stats that the Phillies and their fans can hopefully rely on in Bradley’s debut with the Phillies this season.  

Neftali Feliz

The 2010 AL Rookie of the Year is making his comeback to the big leagues with the Phillies. He has been playing in the Dominican league posting a sub-3.00 ERA during that time. Feliz has not pitched in the MLB since playing with the Royals and the Brewers in 2017, but he is relatively young when it comes to relievers in the game. He has a four-pitch repertoire of a fastball, slider, change-up, and has sometimes used a cutter.Having been removed for a few years from the MLB, hopefully, he has been able to hone his skills to make an impact in this bullpen. Out of all the relievers, he has the biggest sample size of 128 opportunities and 107 saves over 10 major league seasons. The Phillies will be looking forward to getting consistency and reliability out of this reliever, but he should not be overlooked for a closing role if he can shut down batters at the end of games. 

Brandon Kintzler  

Last season Kintzler pitched for the Phillies NL East rivals the Marlins and had a 2.22 ERA with 12 saves in 14 opportunities even though he walked 11 and struck out 14 in a shortened season. The Las Vegas native was a huge part of the Marlins’ push for the playoffs after early Covid-19 cases on the team. Kintzler has stated that part of the motivation and energy that propelled the Fish to get to the playoffs was due to NBC Sports reporter Ricky Bottalico referring to the Marlins as “bottom feeders.”Kintzler has been a consistent reliever for the better part of a decade and he is 36 years old so who knows how much he has left in the tank. But, relievers have still been able to do crazy things well into their 30s and early-40s. He has the ability to bring consistency and knowledge in the closer and relief roles and it will be interesting to see where he places in a bullpen that needs reliability over the upcoming 162 games. 

All of these relievers could come in and pitch starting from the sixth inning which would take the pressure off a starter who has a high pitch count by the end of the fifth inning. There are many possibilities for the Phillies to strategize in the late game.Joe Girardi and the Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham have a lot to look forward to with these four proven closers. The one that gets the job will most likely be decided in the coming weeks of Spring Training.

The Phillies need consistency for this upcoming season and any of these four pitchers could claim that role.
The Phillies Phaithful should feel relieved about their bullpen in 2021, in particular the closing spot.

Featured Image: Mark Brown/Getty Images; Jose F. Moreno/The Inquirer;
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press, Abelimages/Getty Images
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