J.T. Realmuto takes 2020 Phillies bullpen struggles personal

Former Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Brandon Workman and current catcher J.T. Realmuto (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)
Former Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Brandon Workman and current catcher J.T. Realmuto (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports) /

It is no secret how bad the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies bullpen really was. Since earned runs were tracked in 1912-13, the group posted the second-worst combined ERA in Major League Baseball history — 7.06.

Only the 1930 Phillies bullpen of 90 years prior had a worse showing with an 8.16 ERA.

For recently re-signed catcher J.T. Realmuto — whose 291 innings caught behind the plate accounted for him being on the receiving end during most of those bullpen outings — he takes the woes “personal.”

J.T. Realmuto says the 2020 Phillies bullpen struggles were tough on him.

“As a catcher, that’s part of your job. You take it personal when any of your pitchers struggle,” Realmuto said during a press conference on Monday. “To be there and go through that with our bullpen last year was definitely tough on me.”

Besides speculation as to where he would play in 2021, the two-time All-Star said he has thought about the 2020 Phillies bullpen struggles “all offseason long,” and that he has been come up with ways they could have done things differently.

“I definitely take that personal. It’s something that I have to improve on — working with those guys better and helping them become the best pitchers they can be,” Realmuto added. “There are a lot of ways we can do it, so we just have to get to spring training, get to work, and make it happen.”

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The Phillies had nine relievers alone in 2020 with an ERA north of 10. Several of them are no longer with the organization including Cole Irvin (17.18), recently dealt to the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations, and Austin Davis traded in late August to the Pittsburgh pirates for cash considerations and a player to be named later.

Brandon Workman did not have an ERA of 10 or higher, but he did pitch and 13 innings and faced 70 batters this past season in red pinstripes, recording a 6.92 ERA, three blown saves, and yielded 11 runs (10 earned) and four home runs in the process.

The Phillies will rely on Archie Bradley and others to turn things around.

“We didn’t strike a ton of guys out, and, late in games, guys were putting the ball in play more than they should have been,” Realmuto continued. “With that being said, we gave up a lot more soft contact hits than anybody in the league, and especially late in the game. We had some really bad luck, a lot of things just didn’t go in our favor. Hopefully, with a little better luck next year, that can change.”

The Phillies hope offseason additions of Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Sam Coonrod, and others will suffice to help reverse the fortunes. All three relievers are known to be hard-throwers. Realmuto thinks the “pounding the zone better” is among the adjustments the team needs to make, and these three could be the perfect trio to do just that.

“We can’t put guys on base for free,” Realmuto said. “We had too many free passes last year, and we have to put guys away when we get them to two strikes and not make that mistake pitch and give them a chance to put it in play.”

Phillies pitchers and catchers are currently scheduled to have their first workout in Clearwater, Florida, on February 17. If all goes as planned, soon Realmuto and the bullpen will begin their work to turnaround a struggling 2020 Phillies bullpen to a hopefully successful 2021 group.

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