The Philadelphia Phillies fresh off their three game successful series, where they took two out of three against the St. Louis Cardinals, continue to answer questions regarding the struggles of their bullpen. As the season progress it seems that the bullpen continues to be the Achilles heel for this team and there is no end in sight. Sure it is mid June but the time is now for Gabe Kapler to figure out his bullpen or the Phillies chances of seeing the post season will be slim.
Hector Neris was the scapegoat for the relievers as he did not live up to the pre season expectations of being the closer. Starting with his opening day appearance where he gave up the walk off home run to Nick Markakis and ending with his inability to close out the Phillies victory against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday June 17th Hector’s 2018 season will always be remembered as a disappointment. The Phillies front office finally realized there was something wrong with him, whether it is mentally or physically that remains to be seen, and demoted him to Triple A.
Now while it was evident for a while now that Hector Neris was not going to last the season in the closer role the rest of the bullpen has began to struggle recently and Gabe Kapler, along with his coaches, needs to figure out a plan going forward. Seranthony Dominiguez was the emerging star, who even had a chance to become the unofficial closer, has recently struggled and seems to be part of the problem no longer being part of the solution. Tommy Hunter who signed a two year $18 million dollar contract got serenaded with boos on Tuesday night as he blew a two run lead in the top of the seventh inning. That just added to the unbelievable 6.17 ERA that this bullpen currently has in the month of June.
While there is some assistance on the way with the return of Pat Neshek, who was the Phillies lone All Star last year, that might not be enough for this team to compete. Pat’s return is scheduled for early July but questions remain of his durability considering the fact he will be coming off shoulder and a forearm injury. Pat also hasn’t pitched at all this season so rust will surely be an issue when he comes back to the Major Leagues. This team can not wait for his return and expect to be in contention for the NL East title.
Even with the bullpen struggles this team currently sit only 3 and a half games back of the first place Atlanta Braves. They sit at 39-33 and tied with the Washington Nationals for second place in the division. Both teams right now would be tied for the second Wild Card spot which is astounding knowing how this bullpen has pitched the month of June. This team has a chance to compete but only if the coaches can fix the bullpen problem. Imagine where the Phillies would sit in the NL East race if they had steady bullpen help with a reliable closer. Only time will tell if this bullpen will be the demise for a team that has a serious chance of bringing home the World Series trophy.
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