Could the Phillies really carry nine relievers in 2018?

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MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 3 : Hyun Soo Kim #31 and Ty Kelly #15 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrate with teammates after their 12-inning 3-1 win over the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 3, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 3 : Hyun Soo Kim #31 and Ty Kelly #15 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrate with teammates after their 12-inning 3-1 win over the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 3, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images) /
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The Phillies will lean on their bullpen heavily in 2018, but is there really a situation that could call for carrying nine relievers?

It’s become pretty clear the Phillies are going to be a bullpen-heavy team this year. Manager Gabe Kapler is expected to bring the Dodgers’ heavy bullpen use to Philadelphia as the new manager. Without any additions to the starting rotation, the team’s relievers are going to log a lot of innings.

Early in the offseason, Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak indicated that the team would employ eight relievers this year. Most teams typically carry seven, but eight is still a manageable amount. If Philadelphia is expected to use their bullpen as heavily as the Dodgers did last year, carrying eight is a good idea.

Now, Kapler is taking that a step further. A reporter asked him if the club could conceivably carry nine relievers, and Kapler didn’t shoot the idea down: [quote via Matt Gelb of the Athletic ($)]

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"“I can envision a couple of different scenarios that would allow us to carry nine in the ‘pen,” Kapler said. “Now a lot of that is a little too early to X and O about, but how cool would it be to have that level of depth and those many mix and match options to go after the opposition? That would be a pretty cool thing for us.”"

Nine relievers would certainly be uncharted territory for a team before September roster expansion. How would that even look?

As it stands now, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, and Mark Leiter are essentially locks to be in the major-league bullpen. The last few spots (however many there may be) will go to Hoby Milner, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano, Franscisco Rodriguez, Ricardo Pinto, and the newly signed Fernando Abad.

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Gelb suggested that the team could heavily use their options for the various players that still have them left. Hunter, Neshek, Garcia, Abad, and Morgan don’t have options. Every other reliever on the 40-man roster can be optioned this year, and Gelb says there could be a “revolving door” in Philadelphia’s bullpen. Keeping all the relievers fresh and ready to pitch could involve a liberal use of the bus between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia.

With five starters and nine relievers, that would leave just 11 spots for position players. There would be the eight starters, a backup catcher, a utility infielder, and a fourth outfielder.

In this scenario, Philadelphia’s bench would likely comprise of Andrew Knapp or Cameron Rupp as the backup catcher, Pedro Florimon or Ryan Flaherty as the utility infielder, and Aaron Altherr as the fourth outfielder. This would limit the team positionally in-game, but would it be worth it for the extra reliever?

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Nine relievers would certainly be an interesting venture for the team to take. It is probably nothing more than spring training speculation, but the idea will remain on the table until the roster is finalized.

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