Phillies Bullpen

Brogdon realistic about his situation as he tries to win a final bullpen job

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Phillies used seven pitchers to shut out a Blue Jays lineup featuring George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Alejandro Kirk, and while spring results don't matter much for veterans who know they have a spot on the team, they do for several of the arms used Thursday.

Right-hander Max Castillo started and was relieved by lefty Kolby Allard. Each went two innings, put two men on base and struck out one. They're fighting for one of the final two spots in the Phillies' bullpen as a long man, along with Dylan Covey and Spencer Turnbull, who threw a bullpen session earlier this week but has not yet appeared in a spring game.

Connor Brogdon worked a scoreless fifth inning Thursday and Yunior Marte followed in the sixth. They're two pitchers in play for the other bullpen vacancy. There are eight relief spots and six are claimed by Jose Alvarado, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, Jeff Hoffman, Seranthony Dominguez and Orion Kerkering.

Brogdon, in particular, needed a bounce-back outing like this after walking three of the five Red Sox he faced Monday in Fort Myers.

"I just told myself that I wasn't going to walk anybody," he said outside the visiting clubhouse at TD Ballpark. "That was rule number one after walking three guys last time. Executed that goal all right. Feel like I could have made some better pitches, but I didn't walk anybody, so accomplished that goal.

"Sometimes I just catch myself almost thinking like, 'I don't want to give up a home run,' so I'm too fine. It's just trying to find a more competitive way to attack the hitter."

Brogdon is out of minor-league options, meaning the Phillies wouldn't be able to simply send him to the minors if he doesn't make the team out of camp. They'd have to designate him for assignment, and given his age (29) and effectiveness in 2021 and 2022, he'd be a good bet to be claimed on waivers. He could also be a trade candidate.

"I'm just trying to pitch how I've pitched in the past and let the results speak for themselves," he said. "I know it's probably going to be a tight roster race here and I'm out of options, I'm aware of that. I'm just gonna pitch how I pitch.

"I think it's impossible not to think about it, but I'm just doing the best I can to not really affect my day-to-day stuff and just go out there and pitch."

The Phillies want to see more of what they saw in the 2022 postseason when Brogdon was lights-out against some of the toughest lineups he'd faced. He allowed two runs in Game 1 of the NLDS, then ripped off 8⅓ scoreless innings with four hits and 13 strikeouts.

It seemed after that postseason that Brogdon was set to take off. But 2023 was a struggle. He was hit hard on Opening Day in Texas. His ERA was down to 2.61 by mid-May, but from May 15 through June 4 he put 18 men on base in 8⅓ innings and allowed seven runs. He was sent to Triple A and didn't pitch well enough to put himself back on the big-league club's radar.

"There were a lot of ups and downs even that year (2022)," he said. "I don't know if I can go back and pinpoint exactly. I'm the same guy as I was back then, it's just a matter of executing my pitches better and not walking guys. Competing. That's what it comes down to. I know I have the stuff to get guys out.

"It's really tough to go into all of it. I had a lot of stuff going on. Just trying to sort through all that while trying to focus on what was going on on the field, it was a tougher year for me than years past. But I have a lot better hold on that stuff and I feel a lot better coming in this year than how last year went."

Brogdon's fastball was 92-94 mph against the Blue Jays. At his best, it's 95-97 and his best pitch, the changeup, plays well off of it. He's not worried about the velocity on February 29 because he's found over the years that it returns by the end of camp.

"The cutter was good today, changeup had some good depth to it," manager Rob Thomson said. "Big improvement."

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