New reliever David Robertson won’t be the Phillies’ closer, Rob Thomson says
Robertson will essentially take over the role that the Phillies carved out for Jeurys Familia, who was designated for assignment.
ATLANTA — David Robertson will get his second chance with the Phillies.
It just won’t begin as the closer.
After the Phillies acquired Robertson in a deadline trade Tuesday that sent pitching prospect Ben Brown to the Cubs, interim manager Rob Thomson said he plans to stick with Seranthony Domínguez and lefty Brad Hand for the majority of save opportunities, even though Robertson had been closing effectively in Chicago.
“I think we’ll continue to do that, yeah,” Thomson said. “It all depends on how the game goes. But D-Rob’s another option for us because he’s done it in the past for a long time and he’s done it down the stretch, done it in the playoffs. He’s done it in the World Series. He’s a guy that I really trust.”
Robertson, 37, will essentially take over the role that the Phillies carved out for Jeurys Familia, who struggled to a 6.09 ERA in 38 appearances, fell out of pitching in high-leverage situations, and got designated for assignment once the Robertson deal was finalized.
Notwithstanding Familia, the Phillies’ bullpen has thrived over the last two months under Thomson, who assigns roles for relievers based as much on matchups against specific parts of the batting order as innings.
Domínguez leads the group with a 1.67 ERA entering Tuesday night, but the Phillies are careful about not overusing him after he missed most of the last two seasons following Tommy John surgery. Hand (1.99 ERA) also has thrived, while Corey Knebel hadn’t allowed a run in 14⅓ innings after being removed from the closer role. Andrew Bellatti, scooped up in the offseason from the Miami Marlins, has pitched well, too, with a 3.15 ERA.
Robertson gives Thomson another late-inning option. The trade gives Robertson a chance to finish old business. Shortly after the deal was finalized, Robertson tweeted: “Excited for a second chance!! Let’s go @Phillies!”
Thomson and Robertson have a long history dating to their years together with the New York Yankees. Thomson was also the Phillies’ bench coach in 2019 when Robertson signed a two-year, $23 million contract and went down with an elbow injury after only seven appearances and a 5.40 ERA. He had Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch for the Phillies again.
“He was very disappointed,” Thomson said of Robertson’s first stint with the Phillies. “Two years, making a lot of money, I think he felt bad about that. I really do.”
Robertson returned to the majors last season with the Tampa Bay Rays and signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Cubs. In 36 games, he had a 2.23 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 40 ⅓ innings and was 14-for-19 in save opportunities.
Even though Robertson’s contract will expire after the season, the Phillies had to give up Brown, a 22-year-old who has had a breakthrough season in the minors. The 6-foot-6 right-hander, who was promoted to double A this week, racked up 105 strikeouts in 73 innings and had a 3.08 ERA for high-A Jersey Shore.
But the Phillies were able to hold on to their top three pitching prospects: Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry. And for the chance to add another arm to the bullpen, they dipped into their second tier of young pitchers.
“We gave up a couple of guys that we didn’t really want to give up,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said, referring to Brown and catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe, who was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels for center fielder Brandon Marsh. “If you’re trying to win, sometimes you have to do that.”
Segura on deck
The Phillies considered reinstating Jean Segura from the injured list for the Atlanta series but decided instead to give him two more games worth of at-bats in triple A. It’s likely Segura will be back Thursday, which would be 65 days after he broke his right index finger while attempting to bunt.
“I talked to him [Sunday night] and asked him how he’s doing and said, ‘Be truthful with me because I’ve been watching your at-bats and it looks like eight or 10 more at-bats isn’t going to hurt you,’” Thomson said. “He agreed. That’s why he stayed the extra couple days, and he’ll be up Thursday, I hope.”
With no plans for Zach Eflin (knee) to resume throwing from a mound, the Phillies transferred him to the 60-day injured list and cleared a 40-man roster spot. For now, it will be occupied by Andrew Vasquez, a 6-foot-6 left-hander who was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays and optioned to triple A. ... The Phillies brought outfielder Mickey Moniak and reliever Francisco Morales to Atlanta to serve as a taxi squad. Moniak got traded to the Angels for Noah Syndergaard before the game; Morales got added to the roster, taking the spot vacated when Familia got designated for assignment. ... Zack Wheeler (9-5, 2.77 ERA) will start the matinee series finale Wednesday against Braves right-hander Charlie Morton (5-5, 4.34).