Rule 5 lefthander Andy Oliver competing for Phillies' bullpen spot
Lefthander Andy Oliver is competing for a spot in the Phillies' bullpen.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Andy Oliver was en route to a late morning workout in Arizona when he received the call. He of course knew the significance of this December day but hadn't really considered the possibility of being selected in baseball's Rule 5 draft.
"And sure enough," he said, "the Phillies called me and let me know."
A few months later, Oliver finds himself with his third organization and competing for a spot in the major league bullpen. The 6-foot-3 lefthander throws a slider to complement a low-to-mid 90s fastball. His success and whether he sticks with the team will hinge on whether he can command those pitches.
Oliver, 27, is working on a couple minor tweaks he hopes helps his command. In the Phillies' 6-2 exhibition loss to the Division II University of Tampa on Sunday, Oliver threw scoreless third and fourth innings and, along with 6-foot-6 left-hander Elvis Araujo, drew praise from manager Ryne Sandberg.
Oliver allowed only one base-runner, via a walk. He struck out one in his two innings of work. His fastball hovered around 92 and 93 miles per hour, his slider around 82 and 83. One of his sliders, however, resulted in a wild pitch that bounced past catcher Tommy Joseph.
But ultimately, it was a positive first outing for Oliver.
"He just made some pitches when he had to with the two innings with the 24 pitches," Sandberg said. He was "somewhat sufficient with his pitches and just stood out as one of the better guys that threw strikes along with Araujo."
Oliver, the second of the Phillies' Rule 5 selections in December, was last with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He struck out 85 in 64 triple A innings last season but also issued 47 walks.
A second-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2009, he pitched 31 ⅔ major league innings as a starter for the Tigers in 2010 and 2011. His rookie status, however, is still intact. If he can command his pitches, he might finally get a chance to exhaust it with the Phillies.