Gregory Soto finally arrives at Phillies spring training

Gregory Soto finally arrives at Phillies spring training originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Three weeks after Phillies camp opened for pitchers and catchers, reliever Gregory Soto reported to Clearwater.

Soto arrived Wednesday, a couple of days after seven fellow members of the Phillies’ 40-man roster left to participate in the World Baseball Classic. Soto was supposed to pitch for his native Dominican Republic but was stuck in the DR because of visa issues. He won’t play in the WBC because of his late arrival to spring training.

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Soto, a hard-throwing, 28-year-old left-handed reliever, was a big piece of the Phillies’ offseason. They acquired him and Kody Clemens from Detroit on January 7 in exchange for outfielder Matt Vierling, utilityman Nick Maton and backup catcher Donny Sands. Vierling and Maton would both have likely made the team out of camp if not for the trade. The Phillies paid a decent price but acquired a two-time All-Star who saved 30 games last season with a 3.34 ERA the last two.

Soto is likely to enter the season in a closer committee with Seranthony Dominguez, Craig Kimbrel and Jose Alvarado. The Phillies have at least four appealing options in the ninth inning. Kimbrel is a potential Hall of Famer and the other three are in their prime, coming off successful seasons and average 97-plus mph with their fastballs.

Soto had been throwing in the Dominican Republic to try to stay on the same program as his bullpen mates, though there’s no substitute for live game reps, even in the Grapefruit League. The Phillies prioritized getting game action for their WBC-bound players because of the numerous new MLB rules, most notably the pitch clock. Players who left this week were Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Trea Turner (USA); Ranger Suarez and Alvarado (Venezuela); Taijuan Walker (Mexico); and Garrett Stubbs (Israel). All of them appeared in spring training game(s) except Suarez, who threw a simulated game last Thursday in Clearwater. The WBC ends on March 21 but players will report back to camp as their teams are eliminated.

Soto spent the second half of 2021 and all of 2022 as the Tigers’ closer. His 98.7 mph fastball average led all major-league lefties last season.