Who will be the odd man out in the Phillies bullpen when Spencer Turnbull moves in?

If Turnbull indeed ends up in the bullpen, which reliever will be making the trip to Lehigh Valley?
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Ricardo Pinto might be the odd man out of the bullpen
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Ricardo Pinto might be the odd man out of the bullpen / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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The Philadelphia Phillies will have some roster decisions to make ahead of their trip to the West Coast for a three-game weekend series against the San Diego Padres. The team is expected to activate starting pitcher Taijuan Walker to make his season debut on Sunday.

The addition of Walker will have some fallout for other pitchers on the roster. The biggest move the Phiilies will make involves sending Spencer Turnbull to the bullpen. The 31-year-old is on an innings limit following two seasons of limited work due to rehab from Tommy John surgery and a neck injury that kept him on the shelf for most of last season.

Turnbull's performance this season has been well beyond what the Phillies expected when they signed him to a $2 million deal at the start of spring training. In five starts, he's 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 27 innings pitched, with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks. That's good for a 0.85 WHIP.

Turnbull earned a tough luck no decision in what could have been his final start on Wednesday night versus the Reds. According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, manager Rob Thomson has yet to make anything official.

While the Phillies determine the best course of action for the rotation going forward, the team will have to clear a roster spot to make room for Walker ahead of his activation from the IL. The Phillies have a few candidates who could be optioned to the minors or designated for assignment in the coming days.

Let's take a look at the most likely candidates.

Ricardo Pinto has struggled since his debut

The Ricardo Pinto story got off to a great start when he arrived in the middle of the April 2 game against the Reds. After a six-hour car ride from upstate New York, he signed a contract in center field and entered the game for a gutsy four-inning save. The appearance was the stuff of legends, and Pinto's performance was one of the first highlights of the 2024 season.

But nothing has gone right for Pinto in his five appearances since. He has been unable to get big outs, and his lack of command has become a major issue. Now sporting a 10.97 ERA and a 2.25 WHIP in 10 2/3 innings, Pinto has been a disaster on the mound when called out of the bullpen.

Out of options, the Phillies could designate Pinto for assignment ahead of the series against the Padres to make room for Walker on the 26-man roster. It's more than likely Pinto could clear waivers and return to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to provide minor league depth for the remainder of the season.

Seranthony Domínguez has been a liability

Seranthony Domínguez is off to a horrible start to the 2024 season. The 29-year-old right-handed power arm has become a total liability when called upon. It's curious why Thomson continues to trust Domínguez in spots that call for big outs in close ball games.

In 10 appearances this season, Domínguez sports a record of 1-1 with a 9.72 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP and has allowed three home runs. His eight innings of work should be cause for alarm, and it will be interesting to see how the Phillies handle Domínguez's role going forward.

Out of minor league options, it's unlikely the Phillies would DFA a pitcher with such a live arm like Domínguez. But could the Phillies front office get clever and place him on the IL with a phantom injury to get him some work in the minor leagues to get his confidence back? It wouldn't be the worst thing.

Yunior Marte has options remaining

Another solution would be to option right-handed reliever Yunior Marte to Triple-A. Of the three pitchers mentioned, Marte is the only one with minor league options remaining. But Marte has been mostly solid coming out of the bullpen this season. Optioning the 29-year-old would considerably weaken a bullpen still trying to establish an identity as the month of April draws to a close.

While walks remain a problem for Marte, with five, he has produced a 2.31 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings pitched. His slider has been a nasty offering so far, with opposing hitters only managing a .105 average and a 42.9 percent strikeout rate.

His sinker and four-seam fastball haven't yet produced the same results, but his overall numbers are solid. While it's possible the Phillies could option Marte to Lehigh Valley, it seems unlikely given his strong start to the season

The Phillies will be forced to make a move soon, and each of these scenarios could play out, depending on what the front office and manager Rob Thomson feel is best for the team. Who will remain in the Phillies bullpen when the dust settles?

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