PITTSBURGH — The Phillies needed to make a decision with Rule 5 draft pick Noah Song by Saturday as his rehab clock ended, and the move was designating him for assignment.
The Phillies have four days to work out a trade. The deadline is Tuesday. There is also a seven-day period beginning Wednesday during which they would place Song on irrevocable waivers if no trade materializes. A claiming team would be subject to the same Rule 5 restrictions as the Phillies — it would have to keep Song on the active roster for the rest of 2023 and the first month of the 2024 season since the requirement is at least 90 days on the active roster. That would be more palatable to a team out of the playoff race.
"We watched him right until the very end, we just felt at this point it would be very difficult for us trying to get into the postseason to carry him at the back end as the 13th pitcher on our roster, per se," president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "We just thought that would be difficult for us to do and to force our hands a little more, the manager in that case. We felt that spot is valuable and is going to be valuable for us going down the stretch.
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The 26-year-old Song appeared in eight minor-league games during a rehab assignment for a low back strain. By rule, a pitcher’s rehab assignment can last no more than 30 days. He was hit around in the final three outings — one at Double A, two at Triple A — allowing eight runs and 12 baserunners in five innings.
"We kept pulling (for him)," Dombrowski said. "He had one outing when he was in Clearwater that he was throwing mid-90s and we were very encouraged. But the last couple of outings weren't quite the same. The last outing, which he pitched with the Triple A club, was not a good outing. There was that scenario which we were kind of hoping for right until the very end, but we just thought that it would be very difficult for us to do."
Song was a surprising selection by the Phillies in December’s Rule 5 draft. It was a low-risk move with a potential reward. The Phillies spent $50,000 to acquire him from the Red Sox four years after his one and only stint in professional baseball in Low A. Song is a former fourth-round pick who dominated in his final year of college and pitched well in the New York-Penn League before fulfilling his duties in the navy.
The Phillies tried to ramp Song up as a multi-inning relief option, the only sort of role in which a team with playoff hopes would have felt comfortable using a player with so little pro baseball experience. As it turns out, they went with a more useful short-term option for the final spot in the bullpen.
If Song is not traded by Tuesday and goes unclaimed on waivers, the Phillies would have to offer him back to the Red Sox for $25,000.
"We have seen flashes that we've really liked," Dombrowski said. "I mean, really, when you think about what he's accomplished after being out of baseball for an extended period, it's really quite amazing that he's thrown the ball as well as he has at times. But it's a long buildup, there's some inconsistencies. I think it's amazing what he's accomplished so far.
"I wish we had the ability to go ahead and just send him to the minor leagues and let him go out and start on a consistent basis every five days, but that's not a luxury we have at this point."