Phillies close in on final roster decisions in bullpen, outfield


The Phillies took a step toward finalizing their opening day roster on Friday afternoon when they informed two players that they would make the club, sent another to the minors and granted another free agency.

Reliever Brandon Kintzler and reserve outfielder Matt Joyce were both informed that they would make the 26-man roster. Both had come to camp on minor-league contracts. They will have to be added to the 40-man roster before Thursday’s season opener against Atlanta.

Pitcher Spencer Howard, who was slowed by a sore back in camp, was sent to the minors, and lefty reliever Tony Watson, who had been in camp on a minor-league deal, was granted his release when it became clear that he would not make the club.

With three more days remaining in Florida, the Phillies are down to just a few roster decisions in the bullpen, the outfield and on the bench.

Four relievers are vying for three remaining spots in the bullpen. They are left-hander JoJo Romero and right-handers Sam Coonrod, David Hale and Vince Velasquez.

The subtraction of Watson, 35, could open the door for Romero, 24, to make the club as a second. Watson would have made $3 million if he made the club. Romero, who has allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings this spring, will make the minimum of $570,500.

For a team with a payroll projected to rise above $200 million, the savings provides financial flexibility that could come in handy at the trade deadline.

However, Watson has a strong big-league track record. Time will tell if the Phillies end up regretting their decision not to keep him.

“I think Tony had a pretty good camp and I don’t think by any means he’s done pitching in the big leagues,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We thought with some of the guys we have, some of the guys who get lefties out well, and wanting some flexibility in our bullpen, we thought (not keeping Watson) was the right move to make.

“If we decide to take two lefties, we have JoJo that we can take, and if we don’t, we feel good about some of our righties who can get out lefties.”

Velasquez was slowed by an oblique injury late in camp. Girardi said he wants to get one more look at him before camp breaks after Monday’s game. There are basically three ways things could go with Velasquez: He could make the team, which would guarantee his $4 million salary, as a guy who can provide length in the bullpen. He could be traded. Or he could be released, leaving the team on the hook for about a quarter of his salary.

Hale is out of minor-league options. Coonrod can be sent to the minors so the Phils have some flexibility with him.

Kintzler will make $3 million. The 36-year-old right-hander was an All-Star with Minnesota in 2017 and was second in the National League with 12 saves while pitching for Miami last season.

Girardi was not ready to assign Kintzler a set role.

“He can pitch anywhere,” Girardi said. “As we decide the last few pieces in the bullpen, I’ll try to decide on some roles. Kintz is a nice piece to have because he’s closed and he’s set up. As far as flexibility with who pitches when, or if a guy is down that day, Kintz gives us a lot of that.”

Howard only pitched three innings in the Grapefruit League. He remains important in the Phillies’ starting pitching picture and the team needs a contribution from him this season. 

“We chose to go on the conservative side and make sure when he comes up he’s ready,” Girardi said.

The center field job and the makeup of the bench could go right down to the wire. Roman Quinn might be the frontrunner for the centerfield job, ahead of Odubel Herrea, who has tailed off after a hot start in camp. Scott Kingery and Adam Haseley are outside candidates. Both have minor-league options that could be utilized. 

Utility man Brad Miller has ramped up activity after missing time with an oblique strain. His viability for the opening day roster won’t be known until he gets some at-bats this weekend. Non-roster utility man Ronald Torreyes remains with the club and has been getting significant playing time in the infield. He could end up on the club if Miller is not ready and the team can come up with room on the 40-man roster.

“By Sunday, I think most of our decisions will be made,” Girardi said.

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