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With The Game On The Line, Philadelphia Phillies Can Turn To Four Experienced Closers

The Philadelphia Phillies are making every effort to return to the World Series.

Compiling a record of 87-75, the Phillies finished third in the National League East. They were 14 games behind the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, who both finished at 101-61.

Surging in the postseason, the Phillies surprised the baseball world by winning the National League Pennant. They then lost in the sixth game of the World Series to the Houston Astros.

The Phillies have spent the offseason refining and fine tuning their roster.

In today’s MLB, starting pitchers often turn their game over to the bullpen prior to the third time through the batting order. That makes having a deep and credible bullpen a necessary component of a winning baseball team.

Most MLB teams are fortunate to have one credible, reliable closer on their roster.

The Phillies have an abundance of riches at the back-end of their bullpen.

Manager Rob Thomson can turn to any closer from among right-hander Seranthony Dominguez, lefty Jose Alvarado, right-handed free agent newcomer Craig Kimbrel, or left-handed Gregory Soto, who was recently added to the club in a trade with the Detroit Tigers.

Phillies President of Baseball Operations, David Dombrowski has earned an outstanding reputation constructing winning MLB rosters.

Before coming to the Phillies, Dombrowski enjoyed success in front office roles with the Chicago White Sox, the Montreal Expos, the Florida Marlins, the Detroit Tigers, and the Boston Red Sox.

Even with all the success he has achieved, one criticism haunted Dombrowski in his days with both the Tigers and Red Sox; he didn’t improve their ineffective bullpens.

In their quest to return to The World Series, the Phillies have added All Star shortstop Trea Turner as a free agent. Turner is scheduled to lead off in a very deep lineup that includes Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, and Nick Castellanos as the first five hitters. All Star Bryce Harper will be recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The Phillies also signed free agent right-handed starter Taijuan Walker for their rotation. He will join right-handers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, as well as lefties Ranger Suarez and Bailey Falter to round out a credible starting five.

Adding a five-tool star player like Turner adds a tremendous offensive catalyst to the Phillies. Having Walker on the mound to help eat innings bolsters a rotation that isn’t deep, but is effective.

Signing Turner and Walker were outstanding moves. But having four experienced relievers take the ball at the end of games is consequential to the makeup of the Phillies 2023 roster. Free agent lefty Matt Strahm will join the bullpen as well, likely pitching in middle innings.

Seranthony Dominguez-RHP-Age 28

Seranthony Dominguez was signed as an International free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2011.

He received a $25,000 signing bonus.

Arm problems and shoulder tightness caused Dominguez to miss time early in his career,

Dominguez made his major league debut with Philadelphia in 2018, at the age of 23. He has always worked in relief.

According to Fangraphs.com, Dominguez throws his fastball at 97-98 miles per hour. He is basically a fastball/slider pitcher as a closer. He does mix in a changeup to keep the hitter off balance.

Dominguez worked in 54 games last year in relief for the Phillies. He finished with nine saves in 51 innings pitched. He struck out an average of 10.8 hitters per nine innings, while walking 3.9 per nine innings.

Dominguez may be the first reliever up and throwing in the 9th inning. However, he will get plenty of competition from the other three closers on the roster.

Jose Alvarado-LHP-Age 27

Jose Alvarado signed with the Tampa Bay Rays as an International free agent out of Venezuela in 2012.

Alvarado made his major league debut with the Rays at the age of 22 in 2017. He threw 29.2 innings, all in relief.

The Rays traded Alvarado to the Phillies in December 2020, in a three-team deal that included the Phillies, Dodgers, and Rays.

Alvarado’s fastball sits at 98.5 miles per hour. He also uses a wicked changeup and a slider.

This past season with Philadelphia, Alvarado earned two saves. He threw 51 innings in 59 games, all in relief. Alvarado struck out an average of 14.3 hitters per nine innings, walking an average of 4.2 hitters per nine.

Craig Kimbrel-RHP-Age 34

Craig Kimbrel is the most seasoned veteran of the group.

Kimbrel was a 3rd round, 2008 draft pick of the Atlanta Braves out of Wallace State Community College in Alabama.

Kimbrel has pitched for six teams, including the Braves, Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and White Sox. When he takes the mound for the Phillies, he will begin his 14th season as a major league pitcher.

In his 709 games on the mound, Kimbrel has never started. He has always been used in relief, and he has accumulated 394 saves.

An eight-time All Star, Kimbrel was the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year with Atlanta.

Brooksbaseball.com lists Kimbrel as having a fastball/curveball combination. His fastball sits at 70.69 miles per hour, with his curve, which he uses 29% of the time, at 30 miles per hour.

Last year with the Dodgers, Kimbrel threw 60 innings. He saved 22 games.

Kimbrel struck out an average of 10.8 hitters per nine innings, while walking 4.2 hitters per nine.

Gregory Soto-LHP-Age 28 as of February 11

The most recent addition to the Phillies bullpen, Gregory Soto may end up being the most frequently used closer.

The Detroit Tigers signed Soto as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2012.

Soto made his major league debut with the Tigers in 2019, at the age of 24.

Soto made the American League All Star Teams in both 2021 and 2022.

Soto throws a four seam-fastball at 99 miles per hour, a two-seam sinking fastball at 98 miles per hour, a slider, and a very occasional changeup. As stated by Brooksbaseball,com, Soto uses his sinker 40% of the time, his four-seam fastball 29% of the time, and his slider 30% of the time.

With those three very solid pitches in his repertoire, it is very difficult for a hitter to “guess” what is coming.

Last year with the Tigers, Soto appeared in 64 games, all in relief. He had 30 saves. He struck out an average of nine hitters per nine innings, walking 5.1 hitters per nine.

The Phillies sent infielder Nick Maton, outfielder Matt Vierling, catcher Donny Sands and utility player Kody Clemens to the Tigers for Soto, in a trade announced January 7, 2023.

Summary:

The Philadelphia Phillies, under seasoned veteran front office executive David Dombrowski, have crafted a well-balanced club that could, once again, make it as far as the World Series.

While every team covets quality pitching at the end of the game, the Phillies can send any of four closers with major league experience to close out baseball games.

With the additions of All Star Trea Turner and starter Taijuan Walker, relievers Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto may provide the Phillies with the strongest closers in baseball.


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