Joe Girardi met Thursday with veteran pitchers Iván Nova and Héctor Rondón and told them the Phillies would grant their requests to be released rather than add them to the 40-man roster. Everyone shook hands and parted company. It was all very easy.
Deciding on relievers Brandon Kintzler and Tony Watson will be less straightforward.
The Phillies have until Friday night to put Kintzler and Watson on the roster or cut them loose after they opted out of their minor-league contracts, as expected, earlier in the week. Both relievers made a good case for a spot on the team by pitching well in spring training. Both could help the Phillies. But both would make $3 million in the majors, salaries that aren’t insignificant to a team that is already only about $10 million shy of the luxury-tax threshold.
Here, though, is what makes it really complicated: The scars of last season’s bullpen debacle are still raw.
The Phillies like their relief options much better after signing Archie Bradley and trading for José Alvarado and Sam Coonrod, and with Connor Brogdon and JoJo Romero returning with more experience under their belts. But last year reinforced that too many quality arms are never enough.
“I think it’s nice to have these options, to give guys an opportunity to compete,” Girardi said before the Phillies faced the New York Yankees in Clearwater, Fla. “There’s a lot more depth, and we have to make some tough decisions. But usually when you have to make tough decisions in spring training, that’s a good thing.”
Between them, Kintzler and Watson have pitched more than 1,000 innings in the big leagues. They also provide different looks from power arms such as Alvarado, Coonrod, and Brogdon. Kintzler gets most of his outs on the ground, while Watson is a lefty who throws from a three-quarters arm slot and barely cracks 90 mph.
Kintzler and Watson also seemed to fit in well in the clubhouse. Several players, including Bryce Harper, mentioned them earlier in the spring when they talked about the improvements to the bullpen.
But if the Phillies decide to keep both Kintzler and Watson, they will have less flexibility for an in-season move at the trade deadline. Of course, they might not be in a position to make a bold move in July if the bullpen doesn’t perform well early in the season.
Asked early in the week if the Phillies could keep both relievers, Girardi said, “I’m not sure. They both have thrown the ball pretty well. We’re just going to have to make some decisions.”
It was easier with Nova and Rondón. For one thing, they didn’t pitch as well. The Phillies would have preferred to stash them in triple A for depth, and there’s still a chance one or both could wind up back in the organization if they’re unable to hook on elsewhere.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they each got another job,” Girardi said. “We’ll have to wait and see. One thing is they got plenty of chances here, and they’re ready. So if another organization wants to look at their stuff, they’re ready.”
Zach Eflin and Spencer Howard emerged from a simulated game Wednesday without issue, according to Girardi. Eflin, who had tweaked his back in a bullpen session two weeks ago, is scheduled to start the Grapefruit League finale Monday in preparation for the third game of the season. Howard remains a candidate for the opening-day roster. ... Utilityman Brad Miller, who hasn’t played since March 10 after straining a muscle in his side, has progressed to taking swings in the batting cage. It’s unclear if he will play in a game before camp breaks Monday. ... Chase Anderson is scheduled to start against his former team Friday night when the Phillies face the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. First pitch will be 6:37 p.m. There will be no local broadcast.