Headline Writers Rejoice: Fien to the Majors
Last night it came out that the Phillies would be dealing with their bullpen debacle with designating Joely Rodriguez for assignment. Today they announced that they have brought up RHP Casey Fien to take Joely’s spot in the bullpen. The Phillies bullpen is populated with bad pitchers and while you can debate whether Joely Rodriguez is the worst of them, he is certainly part of the problem. This left the Phillies with Adam Morgan as the only left handed pitcher on the roster. Instead of calling up a left like Hoby Milner (who did pitch 2.1 innings last night) or a psuedo lefty like Pat Venditte, the Phillies went with Fien who they purchased from Seattle in early May.
First let’s deal with Joely Rodriguez. The Phillies acquired Rodriquez from the Pirates for Antonio Bastardo. He struggled as a starting pitcher and was designated for assignment at the end of the season, but went unclaimed on waivers and stayed in the Phillies system. After starting off poorly in 2016, he was demoted to Clearwater. He came back with increased velocity and command and dominated his way back up through Reading and Lehigh Valley, and eventually earned a callup in September. This year, Rodriguez saw a 1-2 mph drop in velocity (he seems to have regained that during his last few appearances) and he struggled to miss bats. Rodriguez has never been a big strikeout pitcher, but he was able to offset a high walk rate with home run suppression and a high ground ball rate. He still was able to keep the ball on the ground this year, but his home run rate spiked and with extra men on base he had no chance. Given that the Phillies are weak in left handed pitchers, Joely Rodriguez might want to stick around if he makes it through waivers, but with this being his second DFA he can elect free agency if he wants.
Fien first came up to the majors with the Tigers in 2009. The Phillies are his 9th organization (he did not appear in the majors for all of them) and he is already 33 years old. He has appeared in 299 games with a career 4.29 ERA. He had a couple solid years with the Minnesota Twins, with the last one coming in 2015. He bounced between the Twins and Dodgers last year, before starting 2017 with the Mariners where he posted a 15.00 ERA in 6 innings. Fien is exactly what you would expect. He throws in the mid 90s, averaging about 94mph with his fastball. He mixes in a cutter and curveball. He is a low ground ball/high fly ball pitcher with a career 33% ground ball rate. It looks like when his command is on, he is a serviceable middle reliever, but over the past year he has been mostly the 7th guy in a bullpen, bouncing between teams and the minors.
What this means for the Phillies is that Adam Morgan is here to stay unless the Phillies want to field an all right handed pitching staff. Morgan showed the highest velocity of his career last night, but was ultimately not very effective with it. He lacks the breaking ball to be an effective LOOGY, so he mostly is cast as an extra arm you don’t feel confident in. The Phillies could still go with Hoby Milner at some point, but he would not have been available tonight following 2.1 innings last night. Milner has put up gaudy numbers in AAA, but he profiles as a LOOGY in the majors due to his lack of velocity and deceptive delivery. The Phillies also did not promote Pat Venditte who does have the advantage of being half left handed, but his stuff is marginal enough that he looks like an inferior option to Fien. This also holds of the promotion of the two most promising arms with Lehigh Valley in Ricardo Pinto and Jesen Therrien. Both have under 5 relief appearances in Lehigh Valley and could use the extra time. Overall an unexciting move, but with how bad Joely has been there wasn’t a lot worse the Phillies could do.