With José Alvarado headed to the IL, which Phillies relievers need to step up?
The Philadelphia Phillies announced on Wednesday that José Alvarado was being placed on the 15-day IL with elbow inflammation retroactive to May 8th. While Alvarado will be shelved for at least a couple weeks, right-handed reliever Andrew Bellatti was activated an added to the 26-man roster.
The injury to Alvarado is certainly concerning given how important he has been to the Phillies' bullpen to begin the season. Alvarado has appeared in 14 games for the Phillies so far and had posted a 1.88 ERA. His 24 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings gives him a strikeout rate of 46.2%— an astounding number that is evidence for how dominating he has been. Alvarado was also being used in the ninth inning more frequently.
With their stud left-handed reliever hitting the injured list, the Phillies will need to rely on other pitchers to step up while he is on the mend. Luckily for the Phillies they spent money and time investing in and improving their bullpen over the offseason and developing talent from within.
Who needs to step up for Phillies after José Alvarado's injury?
The most integral reliever to fill the void of Alvarado's absence is fellow hard-throwing, left-hander Gregory Soto. Soto will now likely be called upon in more high leverage situations and pitch in Alvarado's role. He has proven that he can pitch in big time spots before. In 2022, Soto saved 30 games for the struggling Detroit Tigers. While Soto has shown some control issues at times, he can be almost as nasty as Alvarado when his command is on.
So far this season when pitching in the eighth or ninth innings, Soto has yet to allow an earned run in four appearances. In those appearances he has not allowed a hit in the later innings and has struck out six batters while walking two. He has the ability to pitch in late game situations but must keep his command under control or he will get into trouble.
Craig Kimbrel has been getting many chances in the late innings. His role will likely not change, but now that Alvarado is out for some time, the need for Kimbrel to pitch more consistently has intensified. In 13 innings, Kimbrel has an ERA of 7.62. He has had some games in which he looks like the closer of old, yet he has other games in which he loses command, and his fastball is flat.
Kimbrel's effectiveness should be monitored by Rob Thomson. He needs to pitch better whether Alvarado is in the bullpen or not, especially if he is going to be pitching in the ninth inning.
Seranthony Domínguez has been used mainly as a bridge to the later innings. He is interesting, because he has shown the ability to dominate opposing hitters. Domínguez had a rough start to the year but has begun to steady the ship recently. Through his first seven games Domínguez allowed eight earned runs. Since then, he has not allowed any. He allowed some baserunners and unearned runs in his appearance on May 9th.
Domínguez's consistency becomes more important now that Alvarado is out. He can be a pitcher that can get outs and overpower opposing offenses. Like Kimbrel and Soto, Domínguez's success stems from his command.
Whenever a team experiences an injury to a player of Alvarado's caliber, they will rely on many pieces to step up and fill the role. Looking at the short-term, Soto, Kimbrel, and Domínguez will be key in anchoring the Phillies' bullpen while Alvarado is injured. Elbow injuries are always unnerving for pitchers and their teams. The Phillies will hope for good news as Alvarado recovers and hope that there are no setbacks. Until then, the whole bullpen will tested as they await the return of one of baseball's best relievers.