After being relatively quiet for the better part of the offseason, the Phillies front office has been busy over the last few days, signing a slew of veteran relievers to minor league contracts. Following the deals, longtime hurlers Drew Storen, Bud Norris, and Francisco Liriano will all report to the Phils’ Spring Training camp, where they’ll look to continue their storied big-league careers.
Of the three relievers signed, only Liriano pitched in the senior circuit last season. The lefty specialist and former starting pitcher appeared in 69 games as a reliever for the Pirates and performed admirably. In his age 35 season, Liriano allowed just 32 runs and recorded 60 punchouts across 70 innings, finishing his 14th major league campaign with a 3.47 ERA.
While the numbers aren’t exactly all-star worthy, it was a welcome sight to see from Liriano, who seemed to be playing his way out of the league in seasons prior- failing to post a sub-4.00 ERA in the preceding four seasons, including two seasons with a 5.66+ ERA(!).
Making the short trip across the state from Pittsburgh to Philly, Liriano will look to keep his redemption tour rolling and carve out a role as a lefty specialist in a suddenly crowded Phillies bullpen.
As for right-handers Drew Storen and Bud Norris, they seemingly face a tougher road to crack the roster, seeing as they don’t offer the bullpen versatility that the southpaw Liriano does. Still, though, it makes a ton of sense for the Phillies to kick the tires on the veteran righties.
Storen, as you may recall, got his start with the Nationals organization. The former first-round draft pick pitched six seasons in Washington, recording 321 strikeouts, 95 of his career 99 saves, and a stellar 3.02 ERA through 334 innings of work.
Unfortunately, his subsequent stints in Toronto, Seattle, and Cincinnati weren’t nearly as fruitful, as he struggled to find any level of consistent success. To make matters worse, the veteran reliever suffered a severe elbow injury in 2017- his last year in the bigs- and was forced to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Now, a few years removed from major league action and 32-years old, Storen aims to recapture the magic that made him such a hot commodity during his Nationals tenure.
Not quite as decorated as his newly-acquired teammates, Norris has had an up-and-down big-league career, emphasis on the downs. Through a decade of work in the senior circuit, Norris has recorded just three seasons of sub-4.00 ERA. To his credit, though, one of those aforementioned successful campaigns came in 2018- his last year in the MLB- with the Cardinals. That season, Norris recorded 28 saves and saw his ERA precipitate for the third-straight campaign- a trend he no doubt would like to continue in Philly. Similarly to Liriano, Norris is a former starting pitcher who has made his way around the block a few times at the big-league level. In signing him to a minor-league pact, the Phillies seem interested to see if he has any juice left.
Though the minor-league pacts aren’t especially splashy and likely won’t make waves across the MLB universe, it’s hard not to like the moves for the Phillies- whose bullpen sported a 4.36 ERA a season ago. Unlike other positions in baseball, relievers are known for their fluctuating performances and can run hot or cold at a moment’s notice. In bringing the three veteran relievers aboard, the Phillies are hoping at least one of them will be able to catch fire and latch on to the Opening Day roster.
Mandatory Credit: Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports