Phillies bullpen shows up to Grapefruit League action in midseason form

The Phillies bullpen regulars looked impressive during Sunday's spring training victory against the Yankees.

Jose Alvarado and the rest of the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen looked impressive in Sunday's win over the Yankees
Jose Alvarado and the rest of the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen looked impressive in Sunday's win over the Yankees / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Following a wild 14-13 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in their first spring training contest on Saturday, the Philadelphia Phillies' second game turned out differently. Philadelphia's pitching excelled in their 4-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday. Philly's bullpen made a difference in the shutout.

Phillies bullpen turned in a rock-solid performance, with key relievers appearing in midseason form

Following starter Aaron Nola, many of the Phillies' top relievers made their first appearances in a spring training game. Matt Strahm, Jeff Hoffman, José Alvarado, Seranthony Domínguez, and Gregory Soto all succeeded Philadelphia's right-handed starter. All five relievers threw one inning each during the contest.

Strahm had two strikeouts and did not allow a hit or a walk in his inning of work. Hoffman did not allow a hit or a walk and struck out one batter in the fourth. Alvarado followed with one walk, one strikeout, and no hits.

Next, one of the top prospects in the Phillies' minor league system, Mick Abel, made his first spring training appearance. The young right-hander allowed no hits or walks and struck out two batters in the top of the sixth inning.

Domínguez pitched the top half of the seventh and did not allow a hit or walk. Soto gave up a hit, walked one, and struck out one batter in the eighth. In the top half of the ninth, Austin Brice struck out three batters and surrendered no hits or walks.

Other stats from the bullpen's solid performance

Alvarado, one of the favorites for the team's closer role this season, displayed his ability to throw at high velocity during the game. The left-hander had four of the five highest-velocity pitches recorded, according to Baseball Savant. He threw pitches at 99.8, 99.5, 99.4, and 98.9 mph.

Soto had the fourth-fastest pitch of the game at 99 mph. He and Abel finished with four and three swings and misses, respectively.

How good the Phillies bullpen was in 2023

In 71 opportunities, the club had 45 saves last year, which was tied for ninth in the league with the Tampa Bay Rays. Craig Kimbrel, Philadelphia's leader with 23 saves last season departed as a free agent and signed a one-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles during the offseason.

The Phillies bullpen finished with the seventh-best ERA of 3.58 and tied for 10th with the Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, and Texas Rangers with a 1.27 WHIP. While Philadelphia's relievers were in the bottom third of the league with 590 strikeouts, they finished seventh in walks with 217 allowed.

Alvarado's tendency to throw as fast as he does is one of his strengths that makes him a favorite to receive the most save opportunities this season for the Phillies. After struggling a bit in 2021 in his first year with the team, the 28-year-old has improved in each of the last two years.

Despite being placed on the IL more than once with left elbow inflammation last year, Alvarado had his finest season in a Phillies uniform to date. He finished with a 1.74 ERA in 42 games and converted 10 of 12 save appearances. He did well in eight postseason games with a 1.13 ERA, six strikeouts, and a 1.25 WHIP.

Strahm had a 9-5 record with a 3.29 ERA during the 2023 regular season. He saved two games out of five opportunities and had 108 strikeouts. The left-hander had a 1.02 WHIP in 56 games. In seven postseason contests, the West Fargo, North Dakota native converted his lone save opportunity and had a perfect 0.00 ERA. He had five strikeouts and a 0.94 WHIP.

Soto had an inconsistent first season with Philadelphia after doing a good job with the Tigers in 2021 and 2022. During those two seasons, he converted 48 of 52 save chances. He only received six opportunities last year and converted three of them. In 69 regular season games, he had a 4.62 ERA with 65 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP. He had a 6.00 ERA, three strikeouts, and a 2.33 WHIP in five playoff contests. While he has previous experience as a closer with Detroit, he will need to do better in his appearances this year to earn more save opportunities.

Domínguez and Hoffman are the other two relievers who will have a substantial role for the Phillies bullpen in 2024. The former has previous experience as the club's closer back in 2018.

Hoffman was one of their most reliable relievers and excelled in the late-inning role during the postseason. He may get some save opportunities but could be ideal for the setup role in the eighth inning based on his performance in the playoffs last year.

Philadelphia has plenty of dependable relievers from last season. Young Orion Kerkering, who debuted with the team toward the end of the 2023 regular season, is another reliever to keep an eye on, as he can add more depth to the bullpen if he performs well during spring training and makes the Opening Day roster.