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Rob Thomson hopes Dylan Covey addition boosts Phillies bullpen

The Phillies reinforced their bullpen ahead of Tuesday's game with Covey, who was claimed off waivers.

Dylan Covey pitched for the Chicago White Sox in 2019.
Dylan Covey pitched for the Chicago White Sox in 2019.Read moreJim Young / AP

The Phillies’ bullpen — even in the absence of José Alvarado — has been a bright spot this season. That is especially true of late. Over their last seven games, Phillies relievers are striking out hitters at a rate of 26.2%, which ranks ninth among all bullpens in baseball. Over that span, they have a 2.45 ERA.

It’s not something the Phillies want to mess with. And since Bailey Falter’s demotion to triple A, manager Rob Thomson has been tasked with making sure that doesn’t happen. With little starting pitching depth to draw upon, the Phillies have decided to go with a bullpen game on Tuesday to fill Falter’s spot. It’s not a sustainable long-term solution — and Thomson conceded that managing bullpen games, when a bullpen has been as reliable the Phillies’ has, is a tricky balance to strike.

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“You’ve got to be careful,” he said of his bullpen usage. “You’ve got to make sure you’re not going to overwork somebody where you’re going to have to give them three days off. You can do that with one guy, but if you have to do that with two or three guys, you’re putting yourself in a bad spot. It can be difficult.”

This is where Dylan Covey comes in. The Phillies claimed the 31-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Dodgers on Saturday. He will be on the active roster Tuesday, and will pitch in the bullpen game. Thomson said it’s possible he starts.

Covey could be used in a variety of roles. He has experience starting and relieving over his five big league seasons (plus eight minor league seasons, and two seasons pitching in the Chinese Professional Baseball League). But what makes the most sense, given the Phillies’ needs right now, is for Covey to pitch the bulk of the innings every five days. Thomson said as much on Monday.

“He could be (the bulk guy every five days),” Thomson said. “I would say 90% you’re right on that. Because he does give you that four- or five-inning possibility that you can hold on to. And if he does that [on Tuesday], he’s going to need four days.”

It’s not a perfect solution. Covey has a 4.22 ERA in 32 minor league innings this year. But at the bare minimum, he has big league starting experience, and can bridge the gap for the Phillies until they figure out a more sustainable long-term option. The best-case scenario is that the Phillies’ coaching staff unlocks something in Covey, and he can provide some much-needed rotation depth.

» READ MORE: Who needs pitching? Everyone, it seems, and there are no easy answers for the Phillies.

Extra bases

Edmundo Sosa was out of the lineup on Monday because of a tight hamstring after trying to beat out a grounder. Thomson said Sosa is “fine” but the team doesn’t want to push him. … Alvarado (left elbow inflammation) was to throw off flat ground on Monday and if that went well, he will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. He’ll throw one more bullpen after that, and then start seeing some hitters. Thomson said Alvarado will need to go on a rehab assignment, but he isn’t sure where he’ll go, or how many outings he’ll need. He will have to throw at least one or two batting practice sessions before he leaves for a rehab assignment. … Top pitching prospect Andrew Painter (UCL sprain) threw out to 120 feet on Monday and threw off flat ground. He will throw a short side session soon. His timeline is still up in the air.