Edubray Ramos returned from the minors on Friday afternoon as the Phillies begin to put the finishing touches on the bullpen they will ride for the final stretch of the season.
The Phillies began August by activating Ramos from the disabled list and immediately optioning him to triple A. The righthander had a sub-2.00 ERA and had been effective in relief, yet he was headed to the minors. That was a luxury of finishing July with the best bullpen in baseball.
Ramos had a 1.91 ERA in 39 appearances with 33 strikeouts and 13 walks in 33 innings before being placed on the disabled list with a strained left patella tendon. The Phillies currently have nine relievers and will likely shed Yacksel Rios once Zach Eflin returns again from triple A to make his next start. Of the eight others, nearly all of them can be trusted in high-leverage situations. The starting rotation carried the Phillies so far this season, but the bullpen could provide a key push down the stretch,
"I just feel we've had a lot of dependable pieces out of that bullpen and it's a very comforting feeling to know that we have like three or four deep, and really interestingly, three or four deep with a very specific profile," manager Gabe Kapler said. "And because there are so many good right-handed hitters around the game, to be able to get them out with a fastball-slider combination and have three or four guys who can do that very effectively between [Pat] Neshek, [Luis] Garcia, Ramos, [Victor] Arano … Seranthony [Dominguez] kind of has a similar mix. Tommy [Hunter] can throw his cutter away. So we've got a lot of options, so when we go through some guys in a stretch of three or four days, we have backups."
Wilson Ramos will not start Friday night as the Phillies gave their new catcher a planned day off to monitor how he would respond to starting twice in three days since being activated from the disabled list. It is still expected that Ramos will receive the brunt of the playing time over Jorge Alfaro in the season's final weeks.
"I think we can turn him loose. At the same time, today is an example of how as we ease into this, we're going to read and react to how much work he's gotten," Kapler said. "That first game back was a lot of work and probably as much baserunning as he's done in a really long time [a triple and two doubles]. He also was on base [Thursday]. So just understanding that and understanding that we have a very good option in Alfaro makes us comfortable that we don't necessarily ride him every night."
Seranthony Dominguez pitched on consecutive days Friday for the 10th time in 39 appearances. He retired two of the three batters he faced but his numbers without rest — an .883 OPS against with a 9.00 ERA and a spiked walk rate in eight innings — indicate that Dominguez tends to struggle when pitching in back-to-back games.
It is hard to blame Kapler for wanting to use Dominguez — his most versatile reliever — as much as he can. That urge will only grow as the importance of each game heightens during the final stretch of the season. But the Phillies, in order to get the most out of Dominguez, will have to find a way to rest their bullpen weapon.
"Right now, every game is a playoff game. Every game is critical. So we don't want to say that we won't use him. At the same time, in a perfect world, we'd like to give him a blow in between outings," Kapler said. "In a perfect world, we'd like to give him two days off at times. And in a perfect world, we'd like to keep his pitch count under control. All of those things are in an attempt to keep him healthy and strong throughout August and September. So we're always thinking about both, win tonight's game, keep him healthy."