Overhauled Philadelphia Phillies Bullpen Is Showing Its Potential

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Enyel De Los Santos has reemerged as a bullpen candidate with a … [+]

Ponder this, Phillies fans: The team’s bullpen could dominate this season.

Inconceivable! Preposterous!

No, it’s true.

After a dumpster fire of a bullpen in 2020, things are looking sunny with Phillies relievers so far this spring training. Case in point: Friday’s 6-2 win over the Orioles in which five Phillies relief pitchers — Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Archie Bradley, Hector Neris and Enyel De Los Santos — combined for five perfect innings with eight strikeouts.

The 25-year-old De Los Santos, who has reemerged after being dropped from the 40-man roster last August, closed out the game with 3 K’s. He has 9 strikeouts in 3.1 innings this spring.

After the game, Phillies manager Joe Girardi specifically praised De Los Santos.


“He’s way ahead of where he was last year,” Girardi said. “He’s gotten his velocity back and it’s made a difference. He’s definitely been very interesting in camp for us.”

Girardi knows he has some painstaking bullpen decisions to make before opening day on April 1.

“You get excited when you watch a day like today,” Girardi said, “but then you go back tonight and think, ‘Oh gosh, we’ve got 10 guys for eight spots.’ And it’s going to be really difficult to pick those eight spots. That’s a good problem to have but it weighs on my mind.”

Phillies closer Archie Bradley hasn’t given up a run this season. (Photo by Douglas P. … [+]

Bradley, Alvarado, Brogdon and Neris are bullpen locks. That leaves a battle for the last four spots — a battle that includes a multitude of candidates: De Los Santos, lefty Tony Watson, Sam Coonrod, Brandon Kintzler, lefty JoJo Romero, David Hale, Bryan Mitchell, Hector Rondon and Michael Ynoa. Starting pitchers Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard are potential bullpen pieces if they don’t make the rotation.

Going into the offseason, one of the Phillies’ biggest goals was overhauling the relief corps by adding power-arms — something the ’pen had lacked the past couple seasons.

Bradley, who throws 96 mph, will get the bulk of the save chances, while Alvarado and his 100-mph darting fastball will anchor the backend of the bullpen.

Coonrod, who came over from San Francisco during the offseason, can nail triple digits. And Brogdon gasses it up to 97 mph.

MLB.com recently took a deep dive into the NL East bullpens and noted that the Phillies “have more velocity than the past few seasons, which means more strikeouts. More strikeouts mean fewer balls getting through the infield or falling in the outfield. And, ideally, fewer late-inning losses.” Yes, ideally, for a Phillies team, whose bullpen last year was the second worst in MLB history.

Let’s close out with a meaningless spring-training stat that gives some hope: Bradley, Alvarado and Brogdon haven’t given up a run this spring in a combined 9 innings. And maybe, just maybe, all this success translates into the regular season.

I’m an award-winning sports reporter and columnist, who has covered professional and college sports for publications from coast to coast. I’ve written for The Associated