March 30, 2017
CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies bullpen is in order four days before the first game of the 2017 regular season.
The team optioned veteran right-hander Luis Garcia to minor league camp on Thursday, the penultimate day of Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla. Barring an injury or unforeseen roster move to bring in another arm in the next four days, the team’s bullpen is set.
Left-handers Adam Morgan and Joely Rodriguez, who entered Wednesday on the roster bubble with Garcia and bench hopefuls Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava, and Jesmuel Valentin, are in place for Opening Day bullpen.
All three relievers pitched in two games on Wednesday, when the Phillies had a split-squad in Lakeland and Bradenton. While the results of those games weren’t the only factor, they didn’t help Garcia’s case for a roster spot: he was hit hard by the Detroit Tigers A-lineup.
“He didn’t have command,” said bench coach Larry Bowa, the acting manager in the Lakeland half of the split-squad. “His sinker was up. He’s been throwing the ball well (this spring). That’s a tough lineup and they came out and they had a game plan. It was a tough lineup to get through. … I would have liked to see Luis throw a little bit better, but, again, it’s a tough lineup. It’s not like there were Triple-A guys in there. These guys that he faced were All-Stars.”
An important note: by optioning Garcia to minor league camp, the Phillies did decide (for now) to keep him on their 40-man roster.
With Morgan and Rodriguez in line for bullpen jobs, the trio of Stassi, Nava, and Valentin are still competing for two bench jobs a little more than 24 hours before the team breaks camp. Stassi is probably as close to a lock as there is for a bubble player.
Valentin and Nava have both had strong showings, but, if the Phillies were to choose Nava, they would have to create a spot on their 40-man roster, assuming that Stassi gets the once vacated by Alec Asher (traded to Baltimore). Valentin, meanwhile, is on the 40-man roster already.
Of course, the Phillies could still create that spot without doing anything more with Garcia. They could designate Tyler Goeddel for assignment, for example.
Both Stassi and Nava continued to put their proverbial best feet forward on Wednesday with home runs in the Phillies 8-2 win over the Tigers. Nava hit a two-out, three-run homer off of Justin Verlander to erase a 2-0 lead in the third inning.
“Brock and I have been talking about it,” Nava said of the race for the final two roster spots. “We realize we’ve done basically everything we can do. So from that perspective, I know I can be confident that with whatever I did, it wasn’t for a lack of effort of performance. Obviously, you have two guys who I think are very qualified to make the team. It’s outside of our power to choose that. Hopefully, they keep both of us.”
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