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Robertson makes bullpen deep, more reliable

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Relatively early in the offseason, the Phillies added a couple of left-handed relievers to fight for jobs. Now, they’ve added a right-hander who is guaranteed a spot in the bullpen and could wind up serving as the team’s closer, but the Phillies aren’t tipping their hand in that regard, at least not yet.

David Robertson goes to the head of the class though when you consider the other closer options on the roster. Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris both struggled at times as the team’s closer last season and Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter battled both injuries and down periods as well.

Robertson, who turns 34 shortly after Opening Day, got a two-year, $23-million deal with the Phillies that holds a third-year option. The beauty of Robertson, who serves as his own agent, is that he has worked as a setup man and a closer in the recent past and is capable of getting any hitter – yes, even lefties – out. Last season, hitters hit just .183 against Robertson with righties batting .188 and lefties hitting .176 against him.

David Robertson contract details
2019 – $10,000,000
2020 – $11,000,000
2021 – Club option $12,000,000 or
$2,000,000 buyout.
Two years / $23,000,000 guaranteed.

From 2014-2016, Robertson saved 110 games for the Yankees and White Sox with a 15-13 record and a 3.32 ERA in 185 games covering 190 innings of work. He had 13 saves last season with the White Sox when they dealt him back to the Yankees where he served as a setup man to Aroldis Chapman.

The Phillies resisted naming Robertson his closer and he appears to be just fine with that from what he said in his introductory press conference.

“As long as I get opportunities to pitch at the back end of games, I’m happy. Sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning, I’m willing to pitch any point in the game,” Robertson explained. “Baseball is heading in that direction. There will always be lock-down closers, but there’s a good mix of guys like me who will pitch anywhere.”

That philosophy fits perfectly with how Gabe Kapler likes to manage. We all saw last season just how much the Phillies skipper loves mixing and matching players for specific situations in a game and there are no signs that his philosophy has changed over the winter. One of the biggest parts of having success having pitchers in those undefined roles is having them buy into the situation and Robertson seems okay with fitting in wherever needed. The fact that he has experience closing and getting hitters from either side of the plate out certainly has to figure into all of the numbers that Kapler loves to crunch.

In his debut season, Dominguez was effective against both right-handed and left-handed hitters, holding lefties to a .188 average while right-handed hitters were able to manage just a .126 average against him. Where Dominguez struggled was late in the season after carrying a heavy workload earlier in the year. Neris, who lost the feel for his slider and spent some time working on the pitch in the minors, saw righties hit .234 against him, but lefties hit .267 on the season against Neris.

While the Phillies could go with Robertson, Dominguez, Neris, Neshek and Hunter as their righties and then take two from among Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez and James Pazos for lefties, there are other possibilities. Edubray Ramos (2-1, 3.32) showed signs of having what it takes to pitch out of a major league bullpen last season, while Yacksel Rios (3-2, 6.75) showed occasional signs of being able to pitch in the majors, but lacked consistency and was hammered at times.

Trading either Hunter or Neshek – possibly even both – would be a possibility if the Phillies find the right fit or package one of them with other players in a bigger trade. Morgan (0-2, 3.83) could also be dealt in the right situation.

The bottom line with Robertson is that he provides veteran presence in the bullpen, something that can only hope younger pitchers like Dominguez and Neris who have the stuff to close, but might not yet fully understand the mental aspect of the job. Robertson can help with that. Having as strong of a bullpen as possible also helps because it looks like the Phillies rotation will remain very young and could possibly need to be bailed out at times.

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