A few days ago, the Phillies considered carrying three lefties in their opening-day bullpen.
They chose to go with only one.
JoJo Romero was optioned to minor-league camp Sunday, two days after veteran Tony Watson was granted his release rather than a spot on the 40-man roster. The move with Romero effectively put right-hander Sam Coonrod on the roster and left José Alvarado as the lone lefty.
It was an interesting decision. The Phillies play their first 13 games against the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, division rivals who possess several dangerous left-handed hitters. The Mets, in particular, have Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo. But manager Joe Girardi noted that many of the Phillies’ right-handed relievers tend to have success against lefties.
“[Connor] Brogdon’s capable of doing that, Archie Bradley’s capable of doing that, Héctor Neris is capable of doing that,” Girardi said. “For right now, we just decided to go with the one lefty.”
Romero and Coonrod had almost identical spring-training numbers. Romero posted a 1.04 ERA, eight strikeouts, and four walks in 8 2/3 innings; Coonrod had a 1.08 ERA, eight strikeouts, and three walks in 8 1/3 innings. Both pitchers can be optioned to the minors without clearing waivers.
The tiebreaker, according to Girardi: Romero didn’t throw enough strikes.
“JoJo has a chance to be an elite reliever, but I think he has to be more economical. He has to get ahead some more,” Girardi said. “He’s got three swing-and-miss pitches. I just think there’s still a little bit more that he can do with his command to put him in better positions to be successful.”
The Phillies’ bullpen likely will consist of Bradley, Neris, Alvarado, Brogdon, Coonrod, Brandon Kintzler, David Hale, and long man Vince Velasquez.
In a roundabout way, the lack of starter depth may have forced tough decisions on Romero and even Watson. With Spencer Howard likely to be used in a hybrid starter/reliever role at the major-league level, the Phillies’ best triple-A starter options are Ramón Rosso and Adonis Medina. Thus, they believe Velasquez, who will make $4 million this season, has more value as a long man/No. 6 starter than as a potential trade candidate.
Down to the wire
It has come to this: three center-field candidates, two roster spots, one more spring-training game.
Girardi said the Phillies will decide Monday from among Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley, and Odúbel Herrera. Quinn, a switch-hitter with the speed of a sprinter who can’t be optioned to the minors, appears to have a spot on the team.
The relevant questions: Does Haseley have enough at-bats after a three-week absence because of a groin strain to make the team? Has Herrera done enough to merit a spot on the 40-man roster? The Phillies already need to create spots for reserve outfielder Matt Joyce and utility infielder Ronald Torreyes.
Utilityman Brad Miller, sidelined since March 10 by a strained muscle near his rib cage, returned to the lineup Sunday and went 0-for-3 with one walk and three strikeouts in the Phillies’ 6-2 victory over the New York Yankees. But it appears he will be healthy for opening day. ... Third baseman Alec Bohm went 2-for-2 with a walk after missing two games with groin tightness. ... The Phillies also optioned catcher Rafael Marchán and reassigned nonroster catcher Rodolfo Durán and outfielder Travis Jankowski to minor-league camp. Veteran catcher Christian Bethancourt was released. ... Zach Eflin is scheduled to start the spring-training finale at 1:05 p.m. Monday in Clearwater, Fla. The game will be televised by NBC Sports Philadelphia+.