Phillies finalize bullpen by sending Luis Garcia to Triple A

Phillies finalize bullpen by sending Luis Garcia to Triple A

Updated: 4:45 p.m.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies finalized their bullpen Thursday morning, hours before filling out their bench.

Lefties Adam Morgan and Joely Rodriguez were named to the final two spots in the bullpen after veteran Luis Garcia was optioned to Triple-A.

The final two spots on the roster went to Brock Stassi and Daniel Nava, while Jesmuel Valentin is headed for Triple-A (see story).

Nava is a first baseman/outfielder. Valentin, 22, is a second baseman by trade and will play every day at Triple-A.

Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and rookie catcher Andrew Knapp are already set on the bench.

Garcia was sent to the minors one day after pitching poorly against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. He was tagged for five hits and two runs in two innings of work. One of the hits was a double. Garcia needed 45 pitches to get through the two innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out three.

Garcia will likely close at Triple A.

"He developed a splitter over the course of spring training and we want him to go down and work on it," Mackanin said. "It could be a real good pitch for him in the future."

As far as bullpen roles, Morgan will work as a long man while Rodriguez will be more of a situational lefty. Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek round out the bullpen.

Gomez will open the season as the closer. He saved 37 games last season but lost the job in September.

"I'm going to go with Gomez," Mackanin said. "He's going to get every opportunity to do the job. If he doesn't, we're going to take a look at it."

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies (15-27) vs. Rockies (29-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies were supposed to take a step forward in 2017. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb when he said before the season that he thought they could be close to a .500 team, and so far they've fallen well short of that expectation.

At 15-27, the Phillies are on pace to go 58-104, an even worse record than 2015, the year of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc.

They hope to stop the profuse bleeding tonight against the Rockies, who can't lose on the road lately.

1. Franco and Saunders sit
Looking for some more offense, or just a different approach, Mackanin is sitting Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders tonight in favor of Andres Blanco and Ty Kelly (see lineup).

Franco has actually been hitting a bit more in May, picking up a hit in nine straight games before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday. Still, he's hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, and his .657 OPS is 27 percent below the league average.

Saunders just hasn't done much with the Phillies. He's hitting .227/.273/.383 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and he's struck out 35 times in 150 plate appearances. Two of those four homers came in games that were already decided.

It's a rare start for Blanco, just his fifth of the season. Coming mostly off the bench the last four seasons, he's been a consistent hitter for the Phillies, batting .270/.333/.449 with 43 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 559 plate appearances, essentially a full season's worth.

2. Eflin's turn
Mackanin's hope is that with Aaron Nola back from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson appearing to turn a corner and Zach Eflin giving the Phils some consistent innings, the starting rotation can get into a groove, thus helping out the bullpen and giving the Phillies a chance to win more close games the way they did in 2016.

Jerad Eickhoff was just OK last night, allowing four runs in six innings as he dropped to 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA. A quality start tonight from Eflin against a strong Rockies lineup would go a long way because the Phillies really need more than half of their rotation to be clicking right now.

Eflin was rocked his last start in Texas, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings. It caused his ERA to rise from 2.81 to 4.25 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.25.

As is usually the case when Eflin doesn't pitch well, he just wasn't getting his sinker low enough in the zone. He had induced 40 groundballs over his previous three starts before picking up just eight against the Rangers. 

An interesting note on Eflin is that he's struck out just five of the 70 right-handed hitters he's faced compared to 13 of the 85 lefties he's seen. Righties have hit .323 off him with a .798 OPS compared to .250 with a .715 OPS from lefties.

Current Rockies are 3 for 16 off Eflin with just one extra-base hit. He faced Colorado last season at Coors Field and gave up just two runs over six innings.

3. An unlikely start
Unlike most seasons, the Rockies are pitching well and winning on the road. Colorado has gotten off to hot starts almost every year the last five, but it's usually fueled by an unsustainably hot offense. 

Hasn't been the case in 2017. The Rockies are middle of the pack with a 4.29 ERA, a half-run lower than the Phillies. And away from Coors Field, they have a 3.45 ERA, the second-lowest road ERA for any team behind the Diamondbacks.

The run has been credited to a young starting staff that has been missing projected No. 1 Jon Gray. We saw former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman dominate the Phillies last night (seven innings, three hits, one run, seven strikeouts) and tonight the Phils face 22-year-old German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

One of the biggest difference-makers for the Rockies in 2017 has been closer Greg Holland, who signed a prove-it deal with Colorado coming off a major injury. He has 19 saves and a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances and has earned himself a whole of money this winter.

4. The book on Marquez 
The Rockies acquired Marquez along with left-handed reliever Jake McGee in the January 2016 trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays, where he's thrived.

Marquez made just a handful of appearances in the majors last season but has been solid for the Rockies in five starts so far this year. 

He throws pretty much all four-seam fastballs (65 percent) and curveballs (24 percent), with his heater averaging 95.1 mph. He'll also mix in a few changeups to lefties and cutters.

In two starts away from Coors Field, Marquez has allowed just one run in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's kept the ball in the park in four of five starts.

5. This and that
• Good to see Aaron Altherr pick up two doubles last night. He was 6 for his previous 33.

• Tommy Joseph in May: .345/.418/.707, six doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs. 

• Since beginning the season on an eight-game hitting streak, Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP, six walks and 35 strikeouts.

• Daniel Nava was placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. LHP Adam Morgan was recalled again from Triple A to take his place on the active roster.

Tonight's lineup: Sputtering Phillies sit Maikel Franco, Michael Saunders vs. Rockies

Tonight's lineup: Sputtering Phillies sit Maikel Franco, Michael Saunders vs. Rockies

Losers of 18 of their last 22 games, the Phillies are desperate for a spark. 

And Pete Mackanin is hoping the bench can revive the Phils' sputtering offense tonight vs. the Rockies.

Maikel Franco, Michael Saunders and Cameron Rupp will all sit vs. Rockies righty German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

In come Andres Blanco at third, Ty Kelly in left field and Andrew Knapp behind home plate.

Saunders' day off comes a night after he was dropped to eighth in the lineup, where he went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. 

Franco continued to struggle in Tuesday's loss, going hitless with two strikeouts. The embattled third baseman is now hitting just .221 on the year and continues to struggle with his plate discipline. 

Rupp, who is hitting .118 over the last week, has more strikeouts (5) than hits (2) in that span. He will be replaced by Knapp, who is off to a solid start to his MLB career. The backup is crushing right-handed pitching with a .847 OPS and 10 of his 11 hits on the year coming vs. righties.

Tuesday will be just Kelly's second start as a Phillie.

Here is tonight's lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Andres Blanco, 3B
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Ty Kelly, LF
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Zach Eflin, P