Hand struck out two in a perfect ninth inning Friday to record his third save of the season in a 5-3 win over the Cardinals. Seranthony Dominguez worked the eighth inning against the heart of the St. Louis order, while Hand got the ninth against the Cards' 7-8-9 hitters. Since Corey Knebel was removed from the closer role in mid-June, Hand and Dominguez have two saves each, and they'll likely continue to share the job as long as both of them remain effective.
Hand picked up his second save of the year in the first game of Friday's doubleheader against the Nationals, striking out one in a scoreless ninth inning while allowing one hit and one walk. The Phillies announced their intention to drop Corey Knebel from the closer role in favor of a committee Wednesday, and it's Hand who got the first opportunity in the new arrangement. Despite his 1.86 ERA, he's been outpitched by Seranthony Dominguez this year judging by the pair's underlying numbers, but Hand nevertheless got the ninth inning here while Dominguez got the eighth. It's worth noting that Dominguez faced the heart of the order while Hand came in to handle the Nats' 7-8-9 hitters, so their respective usage in this game doesn't guarantee that it will be Hand who gets the next save chance. The veteran lefty was also somewhat shaky Friday, allowing the tying run to reach base with one out before shutting the door on the 5-3 win.
Hand is expected to be part of a closer committee for the foreseeable future after interim manager Rob Thomson said Wednesday that Corey Knebel has been removed from the ninth-inning role, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports. The closing change comes after Knebel blew his fourth save of the season in Tuesday's 11-9 loss to the Marlins while walking two batters and allowing three unearned runs. Thomson didn't explicitly say which relievers would be part of the closing committee while Knebel is used in lower-leverage spots, but Hand and Seranthony Dominguez look to be the top two candidates to pick up saves. Hand, who has nabbed only one save in 2022 but recorded no fewer than 16 saves in any of the past five seasons, has been dependable in a setup role thus far for Philadelphia, accruing a 1.96 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 20:10 K:BB in 18.1 innings.
Hand picked up his first save of the season in Monday's 5-4 win over the Mets, striking out two batters in a perfect ninth inning. The veteran southpaw was called in to face the team he ended his 2021 campaign with after a five-run rally by the Phillies in the bottom of the eighth, and Hand got the job done in style. Corey Knebel (illness) wasn't available Monday, but he isn't expected to be sidelined for long, so Hand's window for save chances is likely a short one. He appears to Joe Girardi's top option behind Knebel, however, not a surprising development considering Hand's 127 career saves.
Hand has sat around 90 to 91 mph with his fastball this spring, below his average of 93 mph last season, Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports. It's possible this is nothing to worry about, as pitchers are frequently below their usual velocity numbers in spring, due either to their lack of adrenaline in exhibition contests or to the fact that they're still building up to full strength. This year's shortened spring training could make that an even more common problem. Still, the Phillies would certainly prefer to see Hand at his usual velocity as soon as possible. His chances of overtaking Corey Knebel on the closer depth chart would take a hit if he's unable to get back to the 93 mph range.
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