Is Brandon Workman the answer to Phillies’ closing pitcher woes?

MLB: AUG 22 Phillies at Braves
ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 22: Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Brandon Workman (44) during the MLB game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves on August 22, 2020 at Truist Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire)

While it may be surprising to hear, Hector Neris is the longest-tenured player on the Phillies roster. With much of the bullpen’s roles uncertain this year, Neris was confidently penciled in as the closer going into this season. Along with the rest of the bullpen, Neris has been a major failure in this role. The Phillies have added some new arms to the bullpen in recent days, including Bradon Workman who has begun to transition into the closer role. This move has shown promising results early on, but it is still to be determined if this is the answer to the Phillies’ late-game struggles.

Hector Neris

With the highest contract out of all the arms in the bullpen, Neris looked to be “the guy” in the bullpen going into this season. Hector has performed fairly well in the closer role starting 2017 where he had 26 saves for the Phils. In 2016, Neris was given his first chance as the closer, but struggled and blew 4 out of his 6 save attempts.

Flash forward to this year and he has not been much better. Neris has completed 2 saves so far this year in the 5 attempts he has gotten. His ERA sits at 8.59 and he has only managed to get through 7.1 innings in the 10 games his name has been called. Not having a reliable closer can be crippling to a team and that has been extremely evident with Neris and the Phils this year.

There is still hope that Neris can help the team and be successful in a bullpen role outside of closer. This was seen in last night’s game where Neris pitched a perfect 8th inning in the 4-4 ballgame. Neris faced 3 batters and forced Ozuna to groundout and struck out d’Arnaud and Markakis to keep the Phillies in the game. This outing was the best he has pitched and most confident he has looked on the mound all season which is extremely encouraging.

Brandon Workman

While moving Neris out of the Closer role seemed like a clear decision, finding someone to fill these shoes is a little more difficult. This is where Brandon Workman comes in. While he has served primarily as a set-up man, Workman has also proven to be successful in the closer role. In his last season with the Red Sox, Workman had 16 saves with an impressive ERA of 1.88. This season with the Sox he was not as steady, but still managed to secure 4/4 of his save attempts.

Workman has made an immediate impact since joining the Phillies. He has secured 2/3 saves and also pitched a scoreless 9th inning in the tie-game last night. It was great to see Scott Kingery end the game with a 3-run walk-off homer, and even more exciting to see the 4 straight scoreless innings pitched by the bullpen to end the game.

While Workman has proven to be cut above the other options on the roster, the jury is still out on whether he can be looked at as the long-term closer. In his last save, Brandon gave up 2 hits and allowed the tying run to reach 3rd before securing the final out. His first appearance with the team was the most concerning. Workman came into the game with a mess on the bases, which was of course created by Hector Neris. It took just one pitch for Workman to blow this save as he allowed a 2-run double to Matt Adams.

In total that night, Workman faced 9 batters. He allowed 4 hits and also walked a batter. In that game, the Phillies came back to tie the game (via a sacrifice fly by Bryce Harper), before Workman gave up the losing run when he returned to the mound. Since that first outing, he has been much better. He has shown unwavering confidence and pitched through several hairy situations. Workman seems to have the resolve and mental toughness that it takes to be a closer, but it is uncertain if he has the ability and “stuff” to match this. Workman is definitely the better option over Neris, but it is not yet time to put all our eggs in the basket of him being the level of closer that a true playoff run will demand.

Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire