Tommy Hunter's injury will impact Phillies' bullpen puzzle


TAMPA — Phillies reliever Tommy Hunter has a strained flexor muscle in his pitching arm. The right-hander, according to manager Gabe Kapler, will be shut down for two weeks. That timetable puts into jeopardy his being ready for opening day.

Hunter, 32, is in the second year of a two-year, $18-million contract with the Phillies. He began last season on the disabled list with a hamstring strain but came back to pitch in 65 games. He recorded a 3.80 ERA.

Hunter’s injury will temporarily ease a numbers issue that the Phillies are facing in the bullpen. They would like to carry an eight-man bullpen and currently have a surplus of arms. Even before his injury, Hunter has been considered a trade candidate as the Phillies shopped him for a potential deal this winter.

With about a month to go before opening day, the Phillies’ bullpen looks like this: Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson and Hector Neris are locks. Pat Neshek has a spot unless he is traded. Juan Nicasio’s $9 million salary probably makes him a lock. Lefties Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez are both out of minor-league options so that will help their cause. With Hunter likely opening on the DL, the final spot in the opening day bullpen would likely come down to Victor Arano, Yacksel Rios, Austin Davis, James Pazos and Edubray Ramos. Arano, who had a 2.73 ERA in 60 games last year, is probably the lead guy in that group. He would have been difficult to keep off the roster even without an injury thinning the field.

There's still a lot of time before opening day and numbers issues like these have a way of working out.

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