Phils’ bullpen battle coming down to the wire

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In Saturday afternoon’s 3-3 tie with the Red Sox, Mackanin distributed innings to three candidates battling for those openings: Alec Asher (1-1, 7.80 ERA), Adam Morgan (0-0, 2.35 ERA) and Joely Rodriguez (1-0, 3.60 ERA).

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The trio pitched well, holding the Red Sox to three runs over eight solid innings.

“They all pitched well, obviously,” Mackanin said. “To hold the Red Sox to three runs is pretty nice, especially in this ballpark.”

Mackanin said on Friday that although it is not an ideal roster construction in the National League, the team is contemplating using an eight-man bullpen. If that’s the result of Sunday’s organizational meeting, there is room for all three of Saturday’s pitchers.

Asher gave up all three of his hits, his only walk and both of his runs in his third and final inning.

Morgan allowed a run on two hits, struck out two and walked two in three innings.

The left-handed Rodriguez looked the sharpest of the three, striking out three and giving up just one hit in two innings.

“After the first hitter, he backed off and just started throwing his breaking ball for strikes instead of trying to throw it 100 mph,” Mackanin said. “Those are the type of things he needs to do to be successful in the big leagues. He’s got the good stuff.”

Rodriguez more than held his own in 12 appearances last season in his first taste of the big leagues after a September callup, posting a 2.79 ERA over 9 2/3 innings.

In Morgan the Phillies see a lefty — he’s one of just two on the 40-man roster — with experience pitching multiple innings, and someone who could check off multiple boxes as a long man.

The key for Morgan, and a focal point of his this spring, has been his ability to not rely so heavily on his fastball early in counts.

“He’s done that extremely well the last two times out,” Mackanin said.

Sunday’s organizational meeting should conclude with decisions on these three potential relievers. For today, Mackanin was impressed with all three.

Ben Harris is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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