CLEARWATER, Fla. — For much of the winter, the Phillies looked toward a spring competition for the closer’s job. Jeanmar Gomez, after emerging as a surprise option, sputtered to the end of 2016. The team added Joaquin Benoit for $7.5 million and has confidence in Hector Neris after a breakout season.
But after Tuesday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers, Pete Mackanin anointed Gomez as his ninth-inning man.
“I believe he deserves to be called our closer at this point,” the Phillies manager said.
That, of course, is subject to change. Gomez, an unconventional closer who does not throw hard and relies more on contact, converted 37 of his 43 save chances last season. He had a 4.85 ERA, a mark marred by his 13.20 ERA in 19 games from Aug. 14 to Sept. 29.
Mackanin said he had not yet informed Gomez of his role. The manager’s decision is to reward Gomez’s first four months of success.
“I remember back in 2009, my first year as a coach here, when [Brad] Lidge blew a lot of saves and Charlie [Manuel] stuck with him,” Mackanin said. “It proved to be important that he did, even though a lot of people were clamoring for a change. Charlie showed him confidence and stayed with him. I think that was the right thing to do.”
For a rebuilding team, the closer is not the most important of pieces. The Phillies broke camp last spring without a closer and first tried Dalier Hinojosa. Gomez has the title now, but Mackanin’s options in 2017 are improved from a season ago.
“We certainly have some guys to go to, with Neris and Benoit and [Edubray] Ramos,” Mackanin said. “The guys who have shown closer’s stuff. But, right now, Jeanmar’s the closer.”