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Phillies add relief pitcher who made headlines for refusing to kneel during unity moment

The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
San Francisco Giants pitcher Sam Coonrod throws against the Oakland Athletics during a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The Phillies added their fifth relief pitcher in as many weeks on Saturday afternoon by acquiring hard-throwing right-hander Sam Coonrod as they continue to address last season's beleaguered bullpen by acquiring low-risk options for 2021.

Coonrod, a 28-year-old with 51 major-league appearances, came via a trade with San Francisco for right-handed pitcher Carson Ragsdale, the Phillies' fourth-round pick in last June's five-round draft.

Coonrod had a 9.82 ERA last season for the Giants over 18 appearances, with 15 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. His four-seam fastball velocity, 98.4 mph, ranked fifth last season among all pitchers. Coonrod was more efficient in 2019 when he posted a 3.58 ERA in 33 appearances.

Since early December, the Phillies have added Coonrod, left-hander Jose Alvarado, and right-handers Ian Hamilton, Michael Ynoa, and Neftali Feliz. All five relievers have a chance next month in spring training to crack a bullpen that finished last season with a 7.06 ERA, baseball's highest mark in 90 years.

None came at a high cost. Ynoa and Feliz signed minor-league contracts, Hamilton was a waiver claim, and Coonrod and Alvarado were acquired in minor trades.

He made off-the-field headlines: Coonrod made headlines last summer when he was the lone Giants or Dodgers player to not kneel during a moment of unity before the national anthem on opening day. The moment of unity, which took place before the anthem of each team's season opener and included players holding onto a black ribbon, was the idea of Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen after a summer of protests and unrest over police brutality.

Sam Coonrod

Coonrod said last July that he did not mean any ill will but said he would be a hypocrite if he did kneel. The pitcher said he "can't kneel before anything besides God" and said he did not agree with the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I'm a Christian, and I just can't get on board with a couple of things that I have read about Black Lives Matter," Coonrod said last July. "How they lean toward Marxism, and they've said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can't get on board with that."

Ragsdale, the 22-year-old the Phillies sent to San Francisco, missed the 2019 season at South Florida after undergoing Tommy John surgery and pitched in just four games last season before the NCAA season was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. He participated last fall in the Phillies' Instructional League in Clearwater, Fla.