Gomez Could Fit Phils’ Pen Plans


Despite what upper management might say, there aren’t many open jobs this spring with the Phillies. The infield is more or less set, and the same can be said of the outfield. The open spots appear to be in the rotation, where 1-2 slots are open with the news of Cliff Lee’s latest injury, and for a spot in the bullpen.

Usually in spring training, teams are looking to set their bullpen up for the season. It isn’t too often that a team has a fully formed relief corps in early March. The Phillies are not there either, but they are darn close.

Let’s assume that the team decides to carry 12 pitchers, which is a reasonable assumption. Setting aside the no-doubt starters, which assuming Lee is done and with Billingsley still out to begin the season would include just Hamels and Harang, you have ten potential spots on the pitching staff.

David Buchanan, Jerome Williams, Miguel A. Gonzalez and Kevin Slowey all seem to be battling for the three rotation spots. Gonzalez, who relieved most of last year, is probably the most likely to be headed to the bullpen.

Jonathan Papelbon, assuming he stays in the Philadelphia, will be the closer. Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, and the aforementioned Gonzalez seem to have a spot in the bullpen locked up. That leaves two spots open, and a multitude of possibilities. One of the more interesting arms that has emerged in the early spring is Jeanmar Gomez.

Gomez was signed by the Cleveland Indians out of Venezuela in 2005 at the age of 17. While he did take his time to really get going in the Indians’ organization, he was at one point rated their 21st best prospect by Baseball America, the high point of his prospect status.

He was never more than just “a guy” in the system, a starting pitching prospect who never posted a FIP below 3.51 when given regular starting pitching innings. Because of that, he was eventually traded to the Pirates in 2013 in a minor league deal, the type no one really expects to result in very much.

By this point, Gomez had become a more or less full-time reliever, only making 2 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis before taking his stuff to the bullpen. That move seemed to pay off for him, as on moving to Pittsburgh he logged 34 appearances (8 starts), proving himself a decent swingman/depth piece.

In 2014, Gomez spent the whole season with the Pirates, pitching 62 relief innings to the tune of a 3.19 ERA. That proved to be a deceiving number, as all of the things he can control (4.37 FIP, 10.2 H/9, 3.3 BB/9, 5.5 K/9) suggested that his ERA was more than a little lucky. This would lead to his release at the end of the year.

The Phils signed him in January as non-roster invitee to compete for a bullpen job, along with a plethora of other pitchers. So far this spring, Gomez has impressed. Even with the small sample size warning attached, Gomez has fired 3 innings, given up 4 hits and a walk, and also has one strikeout. It’s a nice start to the spring for Gomez, and it had better be. There are several options in camp that could be better than Gomez, whose track record is better.

The thing Gomez has going for him is that he is able to pitch multiple innings. While the Phillies aren’t currently stretching him out to be a starter, his ability to come in and toss 2 or 3 innings of semi-effective relief could be something the team values, particularly with questions in the rotation already.

Billingsley is far from a guarantee to be able to throw 6 or 7 innings on a regular basis once he returns, and with Lee succumbing to an injured elbow, his own ability to go deep in games has to be questioned, if he can pitch at all. Having a pitcher like Gomez could ultimately prove to be invaluable.

That being said, he’s also a very good candidate to start the year in the minors. Should Gonzalez or Williams lose out on the 5th starter job, they would most likely head to the bullpen, where each has prior experience. Buchanan, should he lose out on the job, would be ticketed for Lehigh Valley, as management does not see him as a reliever, nor has he done the job in the past.

Phillippe Aumont also battling for a spot with the Phillies.

(Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Pitchers such as Andy Oliver and Mario Hollands have the advantage of being left-handed, which teams always like, giving each a leg up on Gomez. I haven’t even mentioned Elvis Araujo, Ethan Martin, Phillippe Aumont, or anyone else that could beat Gomez out for one of the final spots. That is why the best bet is that, in the end, he will head to Lehigh Valley, waiting until injuries/ineffectiveness happens.

Where his value could also play up is at the trade deadline. When the team ultimately makes moves with their current group of starters, having a pitcher like Gomez and his abilities increases in value if the team chooses to start promoting arms like Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, Ben Lively and the like. Then, manager Ryne Sandberg can limit the innings on those precious arms, while having pitchers like Gomez pick up the slack later on in games.

The Phillies have nothing to lose with having a pitcher like Gomez start in Triple-A. He doesn’t cost much, yet as I said, he could prove to be valuable later on in the season. But if the big league pitching continues to suffer from injuries and ineffectiveness, Jeanmar Gomez just might stick on the Opening Day roster.