It's been a while since 38 year old Tom Gordon had the role of closer for a major league team. His most recent successes came in setting up Mariano Rivera in New York and many figured that would be his role until he retired. The Phillies, needing a replacement for Billy Wagner and finding other free agent relievers too pricey, turned to Gordon to fill a need. After a slow start this spring because of what he termed routine elbow stiffness, Gordon pitched well and figures to be able to handle the role he's been given - at least that's the hope.
So as not to make Gordon feel too old, the Phillies went out and got veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes to be his setup man. The 36 year old Rhodes also had a strong spring and looks like he'll be perfectly capable of handling the job. Ryan Franklin, figuring on a spot in the rotation, was bumped to the bullpen in favor of Gavin Floyd, but has been told that he'll handle the seventh inning duties and could be called on to pitch more than one inning in some circumstances. Geoff Geary, who was also strong this spring, could find himself spelling Franklin or even Rhodes if the situation is right.
Left-handers Rheal Cormier and Aaron Fultz will be the Phillies lefty specialists. The Phillies are hoping that Cormier can return to the form that he exhibited a couple seasons ago and simply hope that Fultz can do in 2006 what he did in 2005. If both of those things happen, the bullpen will be a lot stronger. If neither of them happen, then there could be concerns about just how helpful the bullpen will be.
Julio Santana will look to hold down the long relief role out of the pen.
Projections for 2006