When the Phillies needed a closer on the second night of the season, they summoned Dalier Hinojosa from the bullpen. He blew the save. Less than a month later, Hinojosa injured his right hand and disappeared for two months.
Once activated from the disabled list last week, Hinojosa was demoted to triple-A Lehigh Valley. There was no space for him in the Phillies bullpen.
The unit is not exactly a strength for the Phillies — it ranks 24th with a 4.36 ERA — but Pete Mackanin has some unexpected options that have emerged. And, in the coming days, there are decisions to be made.
The Phillies will need a starter for Thursday's game in Colorado, and it could come from the bullpen with Adam Morgan or Brett Oberholtzer sliding into the rotation. But that would leave the Phillies short in the bullpen at Coors Field, something Mackanin said he will attempt to avoid.
Complicating matters: The Phillies will effectively play with a 24-man roster this week while they skip Aaron Nola in the rotation.
Andrew Bailey can be activated Friday from the disabled list, and his left hamstring has healed. Daniel Stumpf, the Rule 5 pick who was suspended in April for steroid use, must be added to the 25-man roster on Sunday. The Phillies, Mackanin said, plan to keep the lefthanded reliever.
Meanwhile, Mackanin praised the work of Edubray Ramos and Severino Gonzalez, who have gained prominent roles in a reconfigured bullpen.
"I like Ramos," Mackanin said. "Severino is a different guy, throwing 95 mph, which came out of nowhere. That was eye-opening. It was nice to see."
So, a pitcher like Hinojosa goes to the minors. The Phillies planned to count on him for important innings. But he has an option remaining, and the team expects to churn through relievers for the remainder of the season. It will stockpile the arms that can be sent to the minors.
They could be needed later this month, if the Phillies deal a few of their late-inning relievers by the Aug. 1 trade deadline. There should be interest in Jeanmar Gomez, who has a 2.75 ERA and 22 saves in 24 chances. Gomez, 28, is making $1.4 million. He will receive a significant raise for next season through arbitration, a raise the Phillies might want to avoid paying.
Hector Neris, despite some hiccups last month, looks to have straightened. He has a 0.93 ERA in his last nine games (9 2/3 innings) with 11 strikeouts and one walk. His 43 appearances lead all of baseball. He could be moved if the price is right.
David Hernandez, the most expensive Phillies reliever, is a far less attractive trade candidate than he was a month ago. Hernandez has permitted runs in seven of his last nine outings. He has a 12.10 ERA since June 16. He is owed about half of his $3.9 million salary.
Until those possible trades, the relievers with minor-league options are at risk of not sticking. Someone will lose their job when Stumpf returns from suspension, and that could be a difficult thing to accept.