Out of high school, pitcher Noah Song made the choice to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating, Song was committed to five years of service, which he fully intended to fulfill. Then, something somewhat unexpected happened. After putting up impressive numbers as a pitcher on Navy’s baseball team, Song was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2019 Draft.

Song, who went 32-13, 2.37 in 58 games – 54 of them starts – with Navy struck out 428 hitters in 334.1 innings of work. He was able to pitch one minor league season in the Sox organization and made seven starts for the Lowell Spinners in the New York – Penn League with a 1.06 ERA.

While the Navy considered his request for a waiver to delay his military service until after his baseball career, the issue was never resolved and Song had to attend flight school where he has been ever since. Last year, Song again petitioned the Navy for a waiver and this week he was told that his service had been moved from active duty to selective reserves status, which will allow him to join the Phillies in spring training.

That’s not the end of the story.

There are still two obstacles in Song’s way. First, he has not pitched professionally since that lone season in Lowell back in 2019. What shape he is in or how much he has been able to throw is not clear, so the Phillies will find that out when he reports to camp in Clearwater today. If you are thinking that his lack of pitching is not great, but that he can always just work his way back, you run into the next obstacle.

Song came to the Phillies via the Rule 5 Draft last December. Since he was selected in the Major League phase, he will have to stay on the Phillies 26-man roster for the full season or they risk losing him to another team that would claim him off waivers – with the same roster condition – or return him to the Red Sox who could then return him to the minors.

Now, Song is a 25-year-old pitcher who has not thrown competitively in over three years and he has to be kept on the Phillies roster. The situation is more tenuous for the Phillies than it is for Song. Worst case scenario for him is that he is returned to Boston and pitches in the minors. For the Phillies, that would mean losing a good young pitching prospect, but they knew that risk when they took him in the Rule 5 Draft and the only true loss is the $50,000 that it costs a team to take a player.

There could be a little manipulation done by the Phillies to keep Song in the organization. He could wind up on the IL to be given extra time to get back into pitching shape. In that case, he could stay in extended spring training to give the Phillies more time to make a formal decision. While Song technically has to spend the entire season on the 26-man roster, there is a loophole. If he were to be placed on the IL, he would have to spend a minimum of 90 days on the active roster, but that time could come later rather than sooner. Technically, he could miss the entire season and join the Phillies next season when he would need to stay on the active roster for the full season. Or, he could return to the Phillies late in the season to pick up some of those 90 days and then fulfill the rest of baseball’s commitment next season before being optioned to a minor league team if he needed more work.

The bottom line is that the Phillies have the chance to add another strong right-hander to the organization. At this point, Song is a long shot to make the club out of spring training, but his situation will be worth watching throughout the spring.