The last one or two spots in a major league bullpen are typically fungible. Due to injuries and ineffectiveness, a team will often have to churn through several options to fill those spots throughout the season. Typically, the players on the edge of the roster will bounce between the minors and majors, and when they are on the big-league team, they aren’t generally used in high-leverage spots.
Luis Ortiz served in that role for the Phillies in 2023. The former top 100 prospect was selected off waivers at the tail end of the 2022 season and made a solid accounting of himself in Spring Training. He didn’t win a job to start the season, but he made it to the major league roster before the end of April.
2023 stats: 14 games, 19 IP, 0-0 W-L, 1 save, 3.32 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
Ortiz pitched well after his initial call up, giving up only one run in eight innings across six games. He didn’t walk a batter while striking out nine.
Really impressed with Luis Ortiz so far.— Ben Silver (@BenHSilver) April 27, 2023
Obviously it’s easy to like a guy with a 1.29 ERA, but he’s still yet to walk a batter or give up a run 7.0 IP into his Phillies career.
Ortiz earned his first career save for pitching the final three innings of a blowout win over the Diamondbacks in July. However, it wasn’t the prettiest save ever recorded, as he gave up two runs in those three innings.
His effectiveness began to wane after that hot start, and the Phillies sent him back to the minors after a couple of shaky appearances to begin May. He spent the rest of the season moving between the majors and minors, generally only coming up when the Phillies needed an extra bullpen arm, only to quickly return to the minors.
The Phillies’ transaction log is full of entries similar to this:
The Phillies have added RHP Luis Ortiz from Lehigh Valley (AAA) as the additional player for today’s doubleheader against the San Diego Padres.— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 15, 2023
His pitching was uneven for most of the season, but it is possible that the constant moving from the minors to majors may have negatively affected him.
Ortiz is still under team control but could easily be designated for assignment if the Phillies need an additional spot on their 40-man roster. I expect the Phillies to bring him back to Spring Training, and once again be in the mix for one of the final bullpen spots. Heading into his age 28 season, it’s unlikely that he ever lives up to his one-time status as a top prospect, but there’s always hope that he can have a breakthrough ala Jeff Hoffman and become a viable middle reliever.