We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag.  We take your questions each week and answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill.  Submit your questions on X at @FrankKlose anytime and tune in Tuesday afternoons to hear your questions answered on the air.

Knowing that most pitchers don't last past 5 or 6 innings, who are considered our long relievers? I'm not a fan of always doing one inning per pitcher.

The major league long reliever is somewhat of a dying breed in major league baseball.  Teams tend to shy away from using a pitcher more than two innings at a time, if they even make it to that.  The up and down between an offensive layoff is of concern for injury reasons.

The Phillies do not have a traditional long-man who can pitch three or four innings.  In a blowout, you might see some two-inning relievers or one-inning relievers strung together, with a position player pitching one.

The Phillies could get two innings from:

  • Jeff Hoffman
  • Connor Brogdon
  • Dylan Covey
  • Nick Nelson
  • Michael Rucker

Of course, that could depend on who pitched on any given previous day.

My guess is that Covey or Rucker would get the first shot.  Rucker has averaged over an inning per appearance in his career. Covey could be a candidate to start, though it might be more likely his is in the bullpen.  There may not be room for both of them.

Hoffman might be used once in a while when necessary and after an easy inning, but they probably will take it easier on him.

What’s the situation with the AAAA starting pitchers contracts and how many accept the AAA assignment?

When a player rises to the major leagues and gets a major league contract, they have three option years in their contracts.  That is, three different seasons in which a player may be sent back and forth to the minor leagues while maintaining control of a player.  Heading into 2024, the Phillies have some players who have options who are candidates to be a sixth starter, and some who do not.

Kolby Allard
Allard was a free agent major league signee.  One of the bonuses to signing Allard is that he indeed has one option year left on his contract.  Therefore, he could begin the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and be ready should the Phillies need him.

Nick Nelson
Nelson joined the Phillies prior to the 2022 season.  After a nice season in 2022, he battled injuries as he stretched out to be a starter and never did rise to the Phillies until the last day of the season to make a spot start.  Nelson is out of options and the Phillies would have to make a decision at the end of Spring Training.

David Buchanan
Buchanan has not been seen in Philadelphia since 2016, after which he played in Asia.  After establishing himself as a starter there, he returns to Philadelphia to have a shot at the major leagues once again.   Right now he appears ticketed for Triple-A.  He will remain under Phillies control as he is not on a major league contract.

Spencer Turnbull
Turnbull joined the Phillies on a major league contract.  Interestingly, he had a minor league option reversed last season and was granted major league service time.  That extra time in 2023 could work against him as the Phillies now can option Turnbull to the minor leagues.

Who will bat leadoff in 2024?

While I often argued against it, and while I still do not think it is a wonderful idea, I think that Kyle Schwarber will once again bet the Phillies leadoff hitter.  Why?  Well, I think if you look over the last two seasons, the Phillies played the best when Schwarber was in the leadoff spot.

Last year's situation was a little different in that the Phillies were without lefty bat Bryce Harper early in the season as he recovered from injury. That meant that the power that Schwarber has could help the Phillies further down in the batting order.  The Phillies also brought in with new top-of-the-order hitter Trea Turner

Since all three are present, I can see Schwarber leading off, Turner batting second, and Harper batting third.  With many other options beyond that, the lineup is fairly deep.

I do not think that Whit Merrifield will fill that role on a regular basis.  But since the Phillies have a much deeper lineup right now, I would think that it would be easier to keep players fresh and give the more days off earlier in the season.  That could mean that Merrifield might appear for a day.

But I tend to think Schwarber will not play the field this year.  If that is the case, his days off might be few and far between.

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