3 Phillies non-roster relievers thriving so far in spring
By Matt Rappa
President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski may have joined the Philadelphia Phillies organization late into this past offseason, but he still was able to make a flurry of moves to significantly improve the roster — particularly its bullpen — ahead of spring training.
Even though exhibition games do not matter, manager Joe Girardi has already reaped the rewards of Dombrowski’s work by having several relievers showing promising signs thus far through the Grapefruit League schedule. Many of them are non-roster invitees who are not even part of the 40-man Phillies roster. Here are three such relievers who could end up making the team.
1. Tony Watson
It was just a few weeks ago when the Phillies made a surprising, late-offseason signing of 10-year veteran Tony Watson to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.
A former National League All-Star with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Watson has been among the most consistent relievers in Major League Baseball ever since he debuted for the team back in 2011.
This past season, the left-hander appeared in 21 games for the Gabe Kapler-led San Francisco Giants and posted a strong 2.50 ERA, 0.889 WHIP, and 15-3 strikeouts-to-walks ratio across 18 innings. The same year Watson earned a trip to the Midsummer Classic, he finished the season going 10-2 with a 1.63 ERA, and recorded the most appearances among pitchers in the National League, 78.
The Iowa native made his Phillies spring debut last Sunday in the team’s 4-0 loss to the New York Yankees. He struck out each of his two batters faced — looking and swinging — before walking a third batter and getting former Phillies outfielder Jay Bruce to fly out to end the inning. In his two appearances since, Watson has similarly held opponents scoreless while throwing one inning each. Through three innings overall this spring, he has struck out five batters while walking just one.
If Watson continues to have a strong showing in spring, he just might make the team’s Opening Day roster and complement Jose Alvarado — and possibly JoJo Romero and/or Ranger Suarez — as a left-handed reliever out of the bullpen.