The Phillies announced that they have signed left-handed reliever James Russell to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training. The former Cubs/Braves pitcher is represented by Octagon Baseball.
Russell, 30 in January, will compete for a spot in the Phillies 2016 bullpen on the heels of a season in which he struggled to a 5.29 ERA in 34 innings with the Cubs. Russell’s strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 5.3 K/9 in 2015, but he also showed some of the best control of his career (2.4 BB/9) and was plagued by an abnormally low strand rate (57.7 percent) and an unusually high BABIP (.336). Russell hasn’t traditionally dominated lefties, but he’s held them to a .239/.285/.404 batting line in his career and has shown the ability to retire right-handed hitters at various times throughout his big league career as well.
The Phillies are lacking in terms of quality left-handed relief options on the roster, with only Elvis Araujo serving as the only option on the roster that experienced any Major League success in 2015. The Phils do have Mario Hollands set to return from Tommy John surgery at some point in 2016, though he can’t be relied upon for Opening Day duties, which could open a door for Russell to win a role next March.