Jeff Hoffman was released by the Reds in November, released by the Twins after spring training. Signed to a minor league contract with the Phillies, had a 7.00 earned run average after nine appearances for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Every team that plays through October will get contributions from up and down the roster. The Phils are no exception. But no one has had a more improbable rise to fame than the 30-year-old righthander. Manager Rob Thomson said: “He’s a big part of it. I’m not really sure where we would be without him. “
Hoffman’s story seems like an aspect of a fairy tale when you consider that his big break came when he was deemed expensive enough by the IronPigs to take early batting practice to Bryce Harper, before the opener. gates, while the superstar worked with the team to rehab his elbow after Tommy John surgery rather than a rehab assignment.
“I’m on the record saying it was pretty much the World Series for me at that point,” Hoffman said before Game 6 on Monday at Citizens Bank Park. “(The season) is starting to get crazy and it’s kind of crazy. This whole year has been unbelievable. I thank the organization 100 times for the opportunity to come here and throw Bryce.
“At least the way I think about it, I think that helped them forget some of the numbers I put up in Triple-A. I think when I went to throw Bryce, the organization saw me the first time because I wasn’t at camp with them. I think that helped them forget some of the things that maybe weren’t so shiny at the time.
Thomson said the decision to bring in Hoffman (along with Nick Nelson) to help Harper get his time down came from assistant pitching coach Brian Kaplan. The narrative developed quickly after that.
“He came in and he was 97, 98, a really good slider,” the manager recalled. “Harp said he was dirty.”
As it turns out, Hoffman has an out clause in his deal with the Phillies that could be triggered in about a week. Rather than risk losing him, the front office picked up his contract on May 4 and he’s been on his way to more important roles ever since.
In his last 23 regular-season appearances his ERA was 1.35. Seven of his eight postseason appearances were scoreless.
“We’ve got him up to speed on this thing,” Thomson said. “When he first came, we put him in low leverage (situations). Then it graduated to maybe sixth or seventh. Then it graduated to dirty innings and then came back and ended that inning.
“Now it’s gotten to the point where I’m comfortable using him in any inning, including the ninth.”
Funny how things work out. He also put himself in a position to perform in the real World Series, too.
One of the best stories in the Phillies this year is how Nick Castellanos, who struggled a lot after signing a huge free agent contract in the 2022 season, came back to be an All-Star this year.
Before Game 6 on Monday at Citizens Bank Park, he talked about how his relationship with Harper from when they were Youth Olympics teammates eventually brought him to Philadelphia.
“Honestly, I didn’t think in my free agent process that I would be here,” he said. “It was not one of the cities that interested me at the time. It was never on the radar.
“Then Bryce came up to me and said, ‘What do you think? I want it. I want you here.’ So, for sure, I think that if it wasn’t for his start… I probably would have been more locked into other cities that caught my attention at the time.
Her 10-year-old son, Liam, also continues to share the spotlight. He designed a T-shirt— Liam’s Battle Cry Shirt — to be sold by Clutch Apparel, with proceeds going to the Kisses For Kyle Foundation, which supports children with cancer.
The short features a drawing of Nick and Liam plus Harper, Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh and retails for $30. “Very proud, for sure,” Nick said. “Any time you get to go home means a lot. Also, that he was in charge of it. “