This weekend I witnessed three of the more telling spring games featuring our favorite Phillies. Sunday it was an all-cameras, filled-to-the-brim venture against the Cardinals that shone the spotlight on Chase Utley and almost all the regulars. Monday it was a Bronx Bomber beatdown in the concrete calamity that is Steinbrenner Field. And Tuesday it was a shamrock-shake of a blowout against the Red Stockings, back at the House.
Usually St. Patrick’s Day is the right time to take stock of the spring messages, cull some sort of argument about the team’s 25-man roster and its goals for the year ahead.
The goal is very simple: There was nothing in these three days that indicated the Phils couldn’t be a heavyweight contender in 2009. Yes, Virginia, there is a certain chance the Phils can successfully defend their commissioner’s trophy. And anything less than a third-consecutive playoff berth is failure.
But the roster isn’t simple. There are mixes and mashups flung all over the place. Could this guy return? What about his status? Oh, and then there’s the ace, Mr. Everything’s OK … but we might not make it for Jon Miller, Joe Morgan and Steve Phillips. He might need a couple days more.
Still, as I wrap my head around an exhausting and thrilling four-day sojourn through the land of grapefruit, I come to my — as of March 18 — conclusive Phillies roster idea.
The 25-Man Roster
Ruiz is the everyday starter, a shoo-in for a 25-man spot. Paulino is another story. The 27-year-old has performed OK this spring (.350 OBP, .471 SLG) while incumbent Chris Coste has yet to record a GFL hit. Moreover, Coste poses some trade bait for a team seeking veteran catching. Paulino seems ready to step in behind Ruiz.
Howard is bashing but still swinging and missing. Utley and Feliz both look on point for April 5, and that’s more a miracle than if Howard were to creep back into the .280 neighborhood. Rollins may be having the best spring of any Phillie, as he’s regularly providing big hits and defense in high-pressure situations for his USA WBC team. Dobbs is Dobbs and has a cemented spot. Bruntlett has performed well (.449 OBP leads eligible Phils) in all facets. Ozuna makes the team as a 14th hitter — he’s tearing it up this spring, has power and eye and can play multiple positions. Might be interesting to see which of he or Bruntlett can hang longer.
John Mayberry Jr.
Ibanez has been a nice change of pace at the plate, and I love his hit-to-all-fields style. Victorino is a shoo-in. Werth, too, and he looks ready to go. I still hold faith in Jenkins and think he’ll provide the power necessary off the bench. Mayberry makes the squad out of all the utility battlers — he has power and speed, glove and size, and no more time in triple-A will cut down on his strikeouts. He’s too toolsy to keep down.
Chan Ho Park
Hamels should be ready by mid-April at the very latest. And that’s fine. Myers has been tremendous and his latest start was outstanding. Moyer: Steady as she goes. Blanton, too. Park beats Happ because he’s a focused and experienced righty with rejuvenated stuff (the changeup courtesy Mr. Moyer) and a real sense of place. He’s the right guy to start 2009.
Lidge, Madson, Durbin, Eyre and Condrey seem poised to start in the bullpen. I’m going with carrying 11 pitchers, and Majewski (not Happ) is my final piece. So far Majewski has shown to be an experienced out-creating pitcher who can rattle off multiple innings if necessary. Look for more Condrey to start the season, too. Happ will be on the 25-man, but should get starters’ innings in Lehigh Valley until one of the starters east breaks or fails (which will happen).
Optioned/Assigned to Lehigh Valley
Marson hasn’t show much offensive prowess this spring, but he’ll be ready for a 2010 starting competition. This is the year he acclimates himself to big-time pitching, improving his power along the way.
Cervenak, Furmaniak and Tracy already received the cut. They could be released at any point. Giles might want to scout other clubs, too, but so far this spring he hasn’t brought his best. Cairo has been fantastic, and I’d hope the Phils retain him because he could come up large later in the season. Donald has had a fantastic spring (.333 AVG, .434 OBP, .422 SLG). He needs to play nine innings a day, and will do that in Lehigh Valley. He might be your future third baseman.
Slayden is a nice power bat but isn’t quite forecast for the majors. Ellison might prove worthy in a coffee cup situation, much like Brandon Watson last season (who I thought would get time, but never did). They’ll likely join Javon Moran in the Allentown outfield.
Carrasco needs a little more time to work before he heads east. He’ll be with the Phillies proper by August at the latest. Kendrick really needs to develop that changeup; his performance this spring indicates he won’t touch Philadelphia anytime soon. Happ is the odd-man out to start but will be the first up if/once pitching falters. One could see a final-day rotation of Hamels/Myers/Blanton/Happ/Carrasco. Carpenter could go to the bullpen, could stay in the rotation, but one thing’s for sure: He isn’t ready for the show.
Some of these pitchers will not be in the system this season. I’d keep Nestor (already cut), Borkowski, Koplove and Bisenius. Borkowski and Koplove have shown the most this spring, but compared to the experienced Majewski, they fall short.
Chris Coste: Trading block. A team looking for a veteran might dangle a little more than organizational filler for him.
Matt Stairs: Trading block, or if he doesn’t mind, triple-A. But if Mayberry makes the team, Stairs isn’t.
Brad Harman: Could even go down to double-A.
Sergio Escalona: Wouldn’t be surprised if he reached double-A, as well.
Antonio Bastardo: Ditto.