Answers about makeup of Phillies’ bullpen could emerge this week

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Jim Salisbury
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Answers about makeup of Phillies’ bullpen could emerge this week originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As the Phillies get set to enter their final full week in Florida on Sunday, answers to a number of bullpen questions could soon begin to emerge.

Veteran relievers Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson and Hector Rondon, all in camp on minor-league deals, can opt out of their contracts on Wednesday if they don't like their chances of making the club.

Entering the final full week of spring training, half of the Phillies' eight bullpen jobs have likely been locked up by Hector Neris, Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado and Connor Brogdon.

That leaves a host of candidates vying for four spots. 

The list includes Sam Coonrod, David Hale, Bryan Mitchell, JoJo Romero and the aforementioned trio of Kintzler, Watson and Rondon. The list could also include Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez, depending on their health and the health of other starting pitchers, Zach Eflin in particular. Eflin has been battling back soreness. More will be known about his condition on Sunday, when he could test himself in a bullpen session.

It's likely that at least one from the group of Kintzler, Watson and Rondon will make the club, possibly two. All three? That might be difficult. The Phillies' 40-man roster is full and in addition to possibly needing spots for relievers, the team could be looking at adding two position players if Odubel Herrera and Matt Joyce are successful in making the club. For every addition the Phillies make to the 40-man roster, someone must be subtracted and possibly lost from the organization.

Of the three non-roster relievers under consideration to make the club, Kintzler, at the moment, has the best chance. The 36-year-old right-hander had 12 saves for Miami last season, second-most in the National League, and he has not allowed an earned run in seven innings this spring.

Watson's chances of making the club could be helped by the fact that he's left-handed. Romero is also a lefty, but he has minor-league options. If the Phils are serious about protecting bullpen depth, they could keep Watson and have Romero on reserve in the minors.

Watson, 35, pitched a scoreless inning against the Yankees on Friday night. He's allowed four runs in 4⅓ innings, but all the runs came in one poor outing. He has an excellent track record throughout his career. He averaged 70 appearances from 2013 to 2019. From 2013 through last season, he had an ERA of 2.65 ERA and a WHIP of 1.07. 

Rondon, 33, might be a long shot to make the club. Though he pitched a scoreless inning Friday night, he has allowed runs in four of his six outings and manager Joe Girardi has commented that Rondon's velocity has been slow coming.

The final weeks of camp can be nerve-racking for a player trying to make a team. On Friday, Watson said he wasn't sure how things would shake out. Just keep pitching and make it a tough decision for the front office.

"I have every intention of making this team," Watson said. "That's why I'm here.

"But I've received no indication what will happen. I learned a long time ago, if you start playing GM, you're going to be wrong all the time. So, I try not to do that and try to let the cards fall where they may. It's a tricky business, so we'll see what happens."

At the very least, Watson, Kintzler, Rondon and Joyce will gain some clarity about their bid to make the team by next Sunday. As veterans of at least six big-league seasons who ended last season in the majors and signed a minor-league deal this spring, they must learn their roster fate five days before opening day or be offered a $100,000 retention bonus to go to the minor leagues.

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