The games will begin soon for the Philadelphia Phillies, and Darin Ruf will be the most fan-followed athlete in camp. However, there are many interesting aspects this March. Which player will provide that certain magic before heading north?
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I will continue the process of the previous Monday’s approach, if appropriate. For early birds Sunday evening is post time. Due to a strong response and a complicated offseason, my reviews will be weekly until spring training ends. The new summer schedule will allow me to publish the best 3 storylines each week, but there will be an updated calendar included with each feature: Posts involving commentary, polls and stats will be listed for the upcoming 7 days.
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Questions, Answers and Madness:
The numbers count for the open-job candidates, especially if they still have options.
Doc Halladay, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are not in the bombshell category, because they will move at their own pace. Like the other veterans, their statistics will not matter at all. In fact, you should mostly watch Ruf and Dom Brown among the position players even during April. With Delmon Young recovering from ankle surgery, both will probably make the squad until the new right-fielder returns.
The process of eliminating the non-shockers continues with the 5-man staff, the endgame studs, Chad Durbin and Antonio Bastardo. That leaves 3 seats in the bullpen and 11 arms for those roles. Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst, Raul Valdes, Justin De Fratus and Mike Stutes have shown something already to the brain trust. B.J. Rosenberg, Jake Diekman, Tyler Cloyd, Rodrigo Lopez and Kyle Simon have a shot as well.
Performances worth observing are future fan favorites, who will be sent down for more experience to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. They include rookie talent for 2014 and their 2013 to keep an eye on. 3B Cody Asche will probably be a September call-up, Jonathan Pettibone is a rotation hopeful, and C Tommy Joseph is the expected replacement for Carlos Ruiz. Meanwhile, Kevin Frandsen has earned a utility spot unless he ruins it, while Steven Lerud and Humberto Quintero will battle for the reserve backstop role.
It is doubtful that the unexpected standout will come from Frandsen, his 2 challengers for a bench seat, or the 2nd catching job. Freddy Galvis was recently mentioned by Charlie Manuel as his first choice, while Pete Orr and Michael Martinez are in the hunt to be the 2nd reserve. Also, Lerud, who appeared briefly last year, or Quinterro will fill a roster position for the first 25 contests. Quinterro has hit .234, .240 and .232 respectively during his playing time over the last three 162‘s.
Unless Ruf or Brown lights it up in Clearwater to earn a starting opportunity, both should make the club until Young is activated. However, their stats for March and April will be factored into the final decision on them. John Mayberry Jr. is out of options, is the best outfield glove for late-inning defense, and became the right-handed stick off the pine when Ty Wigginton wasn’t re-signed. Laynce Nix is the left-side pinch hitter, who would be moved if Ruf and Brown remain after Young returns.
The young guns near the back of the pack are the most likely candidates to surprise. That stated, Aumont and Horst are at the front of the line. Aumont has the best pure stuff and strong closer potential; however, his control stands in his way. Horst is first for the 2nd southpaw in the mix, can provide 6-8 outs during an appearance, and has that job to lose.The final opening on the relief corps will be the hardest decision for the general manager, the manager and the pitching coach.
De Fratus put together a solid September, while the Phils mounted a late-season comeback to challenge for the 2nd wild-card berth. Stutes missed most of 2012, which means he is amped up to be back on the hill, and I would not bet against him.
Valdes did a fantastic job last summer but he may be crowded out by the rookies. Cloyd or Lopez would stun the experts if they secured that last slot for long relief; however, Rosenberg is the main multiple-frames candidate. Diekman is a lefty specialist with command difficulties, and he needs to harness his adrenalin on the bump. Simon was traded here for Jim Thome, the higher-ups converted him into a reliever, and he was lights-out in Double-A Reading after doing the same at Single-A Clearwater.
Baring dismal spring performances, the favorites are Aumont and Horst, while Valdes is a solid fallback plan for that last slot. The long shots are Diekman, Simon, Cloyd and Lopez, which would require earth-shaking results for them to make the cut. On the other hand, Rosenberg would need some jaw-dropping outcomes to do so. Considering the competition, the surprise should be De Fratus or Stutes.
The question, the answer and the madness are where the shock value is the highest.
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This is the 16th storyline for 2013. Check out my recent publication (The First Bullet) on the Phillies page or my author archives, where there is an excerpt photo. Also, my new feature is Suds or Studs. The last one was Select One of Each.
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