Without the usual number of additional roster spots for the month of September, the Phillies added two players who were a bit of a surprise as rosters expand to 28 from the usual 26. Catcher Donny Sands and reliever Vinny Nittoli got the call to join the team in San Francisco.
The Phillies brought Sands in over the winter from the New York Yankees and he has been playing at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season where he played in 57 games and hit .309 as an IronPig. Sands has missed much of the season with injuries, which has limited his opportunities at Triple-A.
The move raises some eyebrows because Sands was promoted ahead of fellow catcher Rafael Marchan (3-24-.239/.317/.364 at Lehigh Valley) was generally seen as the likely choice if the Phillies added a third catcher. Marchan opened the season on the IL, limiting him to 50 games this season.
If/when Sands gets into a game with the Phillies, he will be making his MLB debut after coming up through the Yankees organization, originally as a third baseman.
Nittoli was just recently acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in a minor league deal that sent minor league catcher Karl Ellison to the Jays. The 31-year-old made his major league debut with Seattle last season and allowed two earned runs in one inning of work. This season, he pitched at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) and Buffalo (Blue Jays), working in 32 games, including four as a starter. Nittoli converted both save opportunities he had this season and was 3-1 with a 3.30 ERA between the two stops.
Ellison, 27, hit .134 in 39 games at Jersey Shore and was promoted to basically sit on the Lehigh Valley bench as a third catcher in early August. He made it into 8 games with the IronPigs primarily because both Sands and Marchan missed time, and hit .056 in 18 at-bats.
It is possible and maybe likely, that the Phillies and other teams will shuttle players back-and-forth between the majors and Triple-A over the rest of the month. Yairo Munoz and Darick Hall are likely position player possibilities, while Mark Appel would be a likely choice to join the Phillies bullpen at some point, with Francisco Morales as another possibility.