As fans sit here on September 5th, the Phillies currently sit in 1st place in the NL Wild Card Standings with a +5-game lead, after taking the first game of the Padres series that left fans feeling very anxious. In a game where the Phillies got off to an 8-1 lead by the 3rd inning, it felt like the Phillies would coast to an easy win and rest up the bullpen, a group that desperately needs some rest. Unfortunately, that was not the case; the Padres made it a 2run game in the 7th inning and had a major threat in the 8th inning. Luck finally did go the Phillies’ way as a Padres double steal which should have led to an error and 2 runs scoring, turned into a lucky bounce as JT Realmuto’s errant throw hit the 3rd base umpire, stopping it from going into the outfield. Kimbrel was able to get Manny Machado to strike out and Xander Bogaerts to ground out to get out of the jam. Another shaky inning from Kimbrel, throwing 26 pitches and allowing 2 walks. The 9th inning was just as nerve-wracking as Jose Alvarado walked the first 2 batters, before getting the next 3 outs. Alvarado threw 24 pitches, also walking 2. The Phillies pulled off the win which is always cause for celebration, but in September, you want your bullpen ready for the playoffs and high-leverage situations, and right now, this bullpen looks taxed.
Since the season started in April, many feared that the Phillies bullpen didn’t have the strength it would need to make a deep post season run. However, the Phillies bullpen has been a pleasant surprise, currently sitting as a top 10 pen in ERA, top 5 in least earned runs, top 5 in least number of walks allowed, and top 3 in least amount of home runs allowed. So why is this writer concerned?
The Phillies rely on 5 pitchers mostly in their bullpen, currently wasting a roster spot on a pitcher they don’t ever use in Dylan Covey and running a 6-man pitching rotation. Those 5 pitchers are Jose Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, Seranthony Dominguez, Gregory Soto, and Matt Strahm. Seranthony and Alvarado both spent time on the injured list, which meant we overused the other 3, especially while wasting a roster spot on Covey. The Phillies (For some reason) fear that Covey would be claimed by another team as he is out of minor league options, forcing them to hold him on the roster while he works with Caltham. By doing this, Thompson has his hand forced to constantly go to the same guys. And here is where the problem lies:
Gregory Soto: Currently at 59 games pitched and at 51.2 IP. His career high is 64 games and 63 innings. There is still a month left of baseball before the playoffs even start. Not only that, Soto had a 7.45 era in 11 appearances in August, and has a 10.8 era in his 2 outings so far in September.
Craig Kimbrel: Currently at 61 games pitched and 59 innings. He pitched 63 games and 60 innings last year, which was the most since 2017. There is still a month left of baseball before the playoffs even start. In 11 appearances in August, Kimbrel took 3 losses, 2 blown saves and had a 5.73 era.
Matt Strahm: The Phillies started the year using him as a starter before moving him back to the bullpen where he has been a huge asset for the team. However, he is currently at 45 games pitched and 78 innings, his most since his last time starting back in 2019, and he only threw 44 innings last year. There is still a month left of baseball before the playoffs even start.
What should the Phillies do?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of an option for Thompson and co, as they are arm strapped currently. As I mentioned, the team is wasting a spot with Dylan Covey, who has pitched just 9 total innings since August 1st. As well, with the Phillies using a 6man rotation, it means one less arm in the bullpen. With rosters currently expanded, I think the team needs to finally end this experiment with Covey and bring back Yunior Marte or Connor Brogdon. Both have major league level experience and can provide some much-needed rest to the core 5 in the bullpen. It is imperative that the Phillies get some rest while closing out this playoff race. They need to keep the 1seed in the Wild Card as that guarantees them Home-Field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and as all Philadelphia fans know, there is no place better than Citizens Bank in October.