Phillies release veteran reliever Mujica

Phillies release veteran reliever Mujica

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies released Edward Mujica on Tuesday to tighten their bullpen competition.

Mujica signed a Minor League contract with Philadelphia in December, and he pitched well this spring. He had a 2.16 ERA in seven Grapefruit League appearances, allowing four hits, two runs, two walks and striking out seven in 8 1/3 innings. Opponents hit .154 against him.

But the Phillies like their other options better.

"They told me I'm free to go," Mujica said.

Mujica's release leaves nine healthy relievers in camp. Right-handers David Hernandez, Dalier Hinojosa and Jeanmar Gomez and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer are locks. Rule 5 Draft pick Daniel Stumpf looks like a lock, too. The Phillies love his arm, and they must keep him on the 25-man roster or risk losing him.

Non-roster invitees James Russell (3.38 ERA in six appearances), Andrew Bailey (5.14 ERA in seven) and Ernesto Frieri (6.75 ERA in six) remain in camp. Hector Neris (6.23 ERA in eight appearances) is on the 40-man roster, and he also remains. Unless the Phillies acquire somebody before Opening Day, those four are fighting for the final two bullpen jobs.

Russell has the edge on one of those spots. Manager Pete Mackanin said the other day that there is a good possibility the team will carry three left-handers in the bullpen. Frieri can exercise an out clause on Thursday, but only if he has a spot on a 25-man roster elsewhere, and that is highly unlikely. Bailey has a May 1 out clause; Mackanin has been lukewarm, at best, about his past three appearances. It is not a stretch to think Frieri and Bailey could open the season in Triple-A and Neris works his way onto the team. Neris has not pitched well this spring, but he had a 3.79 ERA in 32 appearances last season. Mackanin has said that although Grapefruit League performances are important, he will consider regular-season performances, too.

Mujica activated an out clause in his contract when the Phillies did not add him to the Opening Day roster by midnight ET Sunday. They then had 48 hours to make a final decision on him.

The Phils called Mujica into Mackanin's office on Tuesday morning to inform him of his release.

The Phillies saved $100,000 in the process. Article XX-B free agents with six or more years of Major League service time who sign Minor League contracts must be placed on the 25-man roster or released five days before the regular season. If the team does neither, choosing to instead send the player to the Minor Leagues, the team must pay him a $100,000 retention bonus.

Mujica could re-sign with the Phils and open the season in Triple-A if he cannot find a big league job elsewhere.

"I'll have to see," Mujica said. "Pete told me I'm going to have pretty good chances if I go to Triple-A, in getting back to the big leagues."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.