Gomez enhances chance to win bullpen role

Gomez enhances chance to win bullpen role

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies entered Spring Training with plenty of candidates for three bullpen vacancies.

Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez might have received the least amount of attention, but he has an excellent chance to make the team with Opening Day just 12 days away. Gomez, who posted a 3.28 ERA in 78 appearances the past two seasons with Pittsburgh, allowed one hit and struck out two in two scoreless innings Wednesday in a 7-1 loss to the Astros at Bright House Field. He has a 1.04 ERA in seven Grapefruit League appearances, allowing nine hits, one run, one walk and striking out four in 8 2/3 innings.

"He's been pretty impressive," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I like him with his command. He works ahead in the count. For me, he's a candidate for a two-inning stint out of the bullpen. He has the experience. He also throws strikes, and he throws strikes with his slider right from the get-go out of the bullpen."

Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus are locks to make the bullpen. Right-hander Luis Garcia and left-hander Andy Oliver have the inside track on two jobs. Garcia has not allowed a run in seven innings this spring. Oliver, who is a Rule 5 Draft pick, has allowed two runs with 16 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings.

Gomez might lead the pack for the last spot. Other candidates include right-hander Phillippe Aumont (3.52 ERA in six appearances), Paul Clemens (5.19 ERA in four appearances), left-hander Cesar Jimenez (5.87 ERA in six appearances), right-hander Hector Neris (5.87 ERA in seven appearances) and right-hander Kevin Slowey (3.72 ERA in six appearances).

Aumont is out of options, which could be a factor. Slowey is a candidate to be the team's No. 5 starter, but he could slide into a long-man role in the bullpen.

"I feel good," Gomez said. "I worked hard in the offseason. I'm healthy."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Check out his Phillies blog The Zo Zone. Follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.