CLEARWATER, Fla. — It’s hard to imagine the Phillies bullpen being much worse than it was over the last two seasons. Catcher J.T. Realmuto was behind the plate for those seasons, in which the Phillies relievers collectively blew 48 saves and posted a historically bad 7.06 ERA in 2020.

But he has reason to believe the bullpen could be a strength in 2022.

Entering this season, the Phillies essentially revamped the back-end of their bullpen. They signed left-hander Brad Hand, right-hander Jeurys Familia, and right-hander Corey Knebel to one-year deals, replacing former set-up men/closers Archie Bradley, Ian Kennedy, and Hector Neris.

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Familia and Hand both come with significant questions. Familia relies on his sinker, which induces ground balls, for more than half of his pitches. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Phillies’ infield defense ranked last in baseball in defensive runs saved last season.

Phillies coach Bobby Dickerson has been working hard with the infielders, but it seems unlikely that much will change over the next few weeks. So pairing those infielders with Familia could be a poor combination.

Hand, 32, is a bit of an enigma. He split his 2021 season among three teams — the Nationals, Blue Jays, and Mets — and it was a down year for him across the board. His strikeout rate plummeted from 33.7% in 2020 to 21.9%, his barrel percentage went up, from 7.8% to 8.6%, and so did his ERA (from 2.05 in 2020 to 3.90 in 2021). But the most concerning trend was that his chase rates plummeted on his slider and his fastball to career lows, hurting his ability to fool hitters.

The Phillies presumably signed Hand with the intention of fixing these trends, but whether they will be able to remains to be seen. Much of Realmuto’s optimism stems from the Knebel signing, and the potential re-emergence of Seranthony Domínguez.

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“I think having a guy like Knebel in the ninth gives you that stability that we haven’t always had,” Realmuto said. “Having a guy who can come in and throw strikes, and attack the zone, he’s going to make the other team beat him.

“In the past, we’ve rolled through some closers who haven’t had the best command. Walking guys … that’s hard to deal with in the ninth inning, as a team. Once a couple of guys get on, everybody gets nervous. But when you’ve got a guy coming in pounding strikes and making the other team hit the ball, it gives you confidence in that ninth inning. He’s going to be huge for us.”

Knebel had a down season in 2020, his first back from Tommy John surgery, but he bounced back in 2021 with the Dodgers, posting a 2.45 ERA in 25⅔ innings pitched. He is coming off a strong spring training; he hit 97 mph multiple times, and allowed only four hits and one earned run. The big question is whether Knebel can stay healthy. If he can, it seems the sky is the limit.

Domínguez has a similar question. The 27-year-old righty is also coming off Tommy John surgery in 2020 and has missed most of two seasons because of it (he pitched one inning for the Phillies in 2021). Like Knebel, he has come out of the gate strong this spring, hitting 97 mph and throwing strikes. But he also appears to be in better physical shape after losing about 40 pounds during the lockout.

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“We’ve seen what Seranthony can do when he’s healthy,” Realmuto said. “Having him back there with Familia and Hand … I think he can do whatever he wants. He’s got the stuff to close if he needed to. Seventh, eighth, ninth, whenever he wants to pitch. If he’s healthy and throwing strikes, he’s got really good stuff.”

Realmuto believes the bullpen could have one more X-factor, a name some fans might not be considering right now: Connor Brogdon. He has struggled this spring, seeing a tick down in velocity to 92-93 mph, which he believes is due to an atypical preseason ramp-up. But in his last start, against the Pirates, his velocity appeared to tick up again, to 95 mph, and he escaped an inning of work without allowing any hits or runs.

“I know him as a pitcher,” Realmuto said. “I know right now he doesn’t have all of his stuff, but he’s still going out there and competing. And honestly, the last two outings I caught him, he’s had some bad luck. He’s given up runs without giving up hard contact.

“He has a chance to be really good this year. If he gets his changeup going and is able to locate his fastball, like he did toward the end of last year, I think he could be really good again.”

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Coming off a shortened spring training, which could lead to injuries, pitching across baseball seems fragile at best. It seems every day there is news of a starter or reliever hitting the injured list. But the Phillies believe that they are in a better position than they were last year.

“It’s a bunch of dudes that are wanting to just get it done, who are trusting each other, who are wanting to pick up each other,” said pitching coach Caleb Cotham. “When my buddy in the bullpen is out there, I’m out there with him. I think that’s when you start talking about it being a unit.”