Bullpen candidates get extended look vs. Red Sox

Oliver, Gomez, Garcia and Slowey competing to make Phillies' roster

Bullpen candidates get extended look vs. Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After Phillies starter Jerome Williams exited Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park, manager Ryne Sandberg deployed a group of relievers, each of whom is battling for a spot on the club's Opening Day roster.

Left-hander Andy Oliver and righties Jeanmar Gomez, Luis Garcia and Kevin Slowey followed Williams, combining to pitch the final five innings. The first three all are contenders for the final bullpen jobs, while Sandberg sees Slowey as a potential swingman who could be the No. 5 starter or a long reliever.

While Slowey began his spring with appearances of two and then three innings, he has worked a single frame in two of his past three, including Sunday. Sandberg said it's "yet to be seen" how much the Phillies will get Slowey stretched out before the regular season.

"He's a versatile guy for us," Sandberg said. "He's capable of multiple innings out of the bullpen. He's also started in the past. He's a guy with versatility. Today, as it worked out, it was just a one-inning stint for him."

Over seven Major League seasons for the Twins and Marlins, Slowey has started 106 of his 137 appearances. But he came out of the bullpen in 15 of his 17 games for Miami in 2014, while posting a 5.30 ERA.

Slowey, a non-roster invitee to camp, entered Sunday's game in the eighth inning and struck out his first two batters swinging before hitting one and then getting a groundout.

"[Today] probably was the first time I've seen his good breaking stuff," Sandberg said. "He's starting to work on that along with his fastball. I thought he was real sharp today."

The first man out of the bullpen was Oliver, who gave up two runs in 1 2/3 innings, thanks in part to a pair of infield singles, a walk and a wild pitch. But he also racked up three more strikeouts, giving him 16 in 8 1/3 innings this spring, with three free passes.

Oliver on success with Phillies

"Oliver's been impressive," Sandberg said. "He wasn't quite getting ahead [in the count] like he had the last two outings but he still showed his good stuff."

Gomez followed with 1 1/3 perfect innings, and he now has held the opposition to one run over 6 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League play.

Garcia kept his ERA a pristine 0.00 with a 1-2-3 seventh, in which he struck out the first two batters. The 28-year-old has gone seven scoreless innings this spring while striking out seven and allowing only three hits and one walk.

"Garcia continues to be pretty solid," Sandberg said. "Throwing strikes with his couple of pitches. Those guys for sure were bright spots, along with Slowey."

• Closer Jonathan Papelbon threw one inning in a Minor League game at the Phillies' complex in Clearwater, Fla., on Sunday. He allowed no baserunners and struck out one, throwing 13 pitches. Papelbon has made four Grapefruit League appearances, throwing four innings and giving up one earned run.

• Outfielder Jeff Francoeur (oblique soreness) started in right field on Sunday, his first game action in 10 days. The non-roster invitee, who is a candidate for a bench job, went 1-for-4 with a single.

• The Phillies started Rule 5 Draft pick Odubel Herrera in center field and shifted Ben Revere over to left for the second straight game, and Sandberg said he will consider that alignment on a "day to day" basis. Herrera, who has played two Minor League games in center, contributed to Mookie Betts' inside-the-park home run in the third inning. Betts hit a shot over his head that one-hopped the wall, and then Herrera wasn't able to find the ball quickly or grab it cleanly.

"He was a little aggressive on trying to pick it up," Sandberg said. "For me, it was pretty much a triple off the bat, with Betts being the runner. Once [Herrera] fumbled it, he was a little too anxious to get it instead of being clean with and getting it in."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.