Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has already named a favorite for his team’s closer role: Jeanmar Gomez, as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “I believe he deserves to be called our closer at this point,” Mackanin said.
Gomez, 29, finished last season with 37 saves, a 4.85 ERA, and a 47/22 K/BB ratio in 68 2/3 innings. He was solid for the first four months of the season, but ran out of steam in August and September. Between August 1 and the end of the season, Gomez yielded 22 earned runs on 35 hits and 10 walks with 16 strikeouts in 20 innings.
The Phillies added veteran Joaquin Benoit, who posted a 0.38 ERA with the Blue Jays last year, and also have Hector Neris, who compiled a sterling 2.58 ERA over 80 1/3 innings in 2016. Strong spring performances from either could still move the needle.
“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. 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,” Mackanin said.
The Phillies made it back to the World Series in 2009 in spite of Lidge’s ineffectiveness, not because of it. Lidge did not improve as the season went on as his first half ERA was 7.03 and his second half ERA was 7.43. And he famously blew a tie ballgame by serving up three runs in the top of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the World Series against the Yankees. So, pointing to Lidge is not exactly the best example Mackanin could have come up with.
All this being said, the 2017 Phillies team isn’t expected to be a competitive ballclub, so vacillating between closers is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.