By Mary Cunningham
The Phillies have gotten off to a reasonably surprising 7-9 start in 2016, but one of their biggest deficiencies has been in the bullpen.
And they moved to correct that yesterday when they purchased Andrew Bailey’s contract from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and designated left-hander James Russell for assignment.
“It’s a big opportunity I’ve been looking forward to,” Bailey said prior to Wednesday’s 5-4, 11th-inning win over the Mets.
Bailey was one of 24 relievers the Phillies had in spring training and one of 25 non-roster invitees, spanning all positions.
A strong start and prior closing experience fueled speculation he could fill the Phillies’ then-vacant closer’s role. But allowing five runs in the final stretch led to him starting the season in Triple-A.
In four relief appearances for the IronPigs, Bailey tossed five innings, allowing just one run and striking out 10. Meanwhile, Russell appeared in seven games for the Phillies, leaving the team with an 18.69 ERA and more walks (five) than strikeouts (four) in 4 1/3 innings.
“Russell wasn’t pitching the way he’s capable of,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “[Bailey] wasn’t far off in spring. … He’s throwing pretty good. I haven’t seen him [since he went to Triple-A], but his numbers, even though it’s a small sample, they’re OK.”
Mackanin said the Phillies plan on “seeing where he fits in,” but Jeanmar Gomez will continue to work the ninth inning. Gomez pitched the 10th and 11th innings Wednesday, allowing no runs, one hit and striking out two. Bailey was available but did not see action.