As Opening Day draws near, teams begin to slim down the players in their Spring Training camp. The Philadelphia Phillies have been looking at several young minor league and veteran non-roster invitees this Spring as they make an attempt to bring a winning atmosphere back to the City of Brotherly Love. With talents ranging from Ronny Cedeno, Reid Brignac, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Wil Nieves, to Bobby Abreu, along with the already in-house candidates like Kevin Frandsen, Freddy Galvis, Cameron Rupp, Sebastian Valle, Leandro Castro, and Cesar Hernandez, manager Ryne Sandberg and staff have had a busy Spring filling out a 25-man roster.
On Sunday, Kevin Frandsen was outrighted by the Phillies, opening up a spot on the 40-man roster. On Tuesday, Frandsen elected to become a free agent instead of accepting his assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Also on Tuesday, the Phillies released infielder Ronny Cedeno, optioned catcher Cameron Rupp, re-assigned catcher Sebastian Valle, and brought catcher Koyie Hill to big league training camp. Hill was acquired on March 17 from the Washington Nationals. After Cedeno was released, it now looks like the switch-hitting Cesar Hernandez will be a shoo-in for one bench spot.
According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Andres Blanco could be in the running for a backup shortstop position in Philadelphia. With Cesar Izturis also available after opting out of his contract with the Houston Astros on Monday, the Phillies could offer him a low-price deal if they choose to go that route.
Amaro said minor league SS Andres Blanco may travel to PHL for this weekends exhibition games. Possible backup SS.
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) March 25, 2014
Freddy Galvis seemed to be a lock for a bench spot as a switch-hitter and slick fielding utility man, but late last week was hospitalized with a staph infection. After spending the weekend in the hospital, Galvis is able to return the Phillies Spring clubhouse and spend time with his teammates.
John Mayberry Jr. also appears to be a lock for a bench spot as he is currently the only right-handed batter with Darin Ruf on the disabled list to start the season. Both Mayberry and Ruf can play multiple outfield positions and first base, but with Ruf out with an oblique injury, Mayberry becomes valuable to the Phillies.
Wil Nieves is a definite yes for the bench as a backup catcher unless Koyie Hill blows Sandberg’s mind in the last six days before Opening Day. All the other catchers have been re-assigned or optioned, so the plan is for Nieves to go to Philadelphia and Hill to be the backup at Lehigh Valley.
The Phillies could bring Bobby Abreu or Tony Gwynn Jr. north with them as a left-handed bat off the bench. Gwynn brings more speed and could be a true back-up for center fielder Ben Revere. Abreu brings more plate discipline and veteran leadership to the team. As the season starts, Sandberg could have both Abreu and Gwynn as Ruf and Galvis will be on the disabled list. Sandberg has liked Ruf’s play and he seemed to be a lock for the Phillies bench before straining his oblique in batting practice last week. Ruf could be out approximately six-eight weeks, during which time he will begin rehabbing with a minor league team. Galvis has been a Philly fan favorite since filling in for the injured Chase Utley at the beginning of the 2012 season before breaking his own back and then having to serve a suspension for violating MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. He has since seen time in both Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley uniforms, playing multiple positions. A natural shortstop, many thought Galvis would take Jimmy Rollins place if trade rumors produced any moves. Abreu will need to be made known of the Phillies intentions on Sunday or he can opt out of his contract with the team. He is in Tuesday’s lineup against the New York Yankees as the designated hitter.
Phillies and Bobby Abreu agree to move back his opt out date to Sunday. More time to evaluate. Was supposed to be tomorrow.
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) March 25, 2014
The Phillies are also shaping up their bullpen as pitcher David Buchanan, a non-roster invitee, was told on Tuesday he would not make the major league team. He will still make a start for the Phillies on Saturday before being sent to minor league camp. Buchanan has been impressive during camp and was a candidate to be a fifth starter for the Phillies while southpaw Cole Hamels caught up after a late start to a throwing program. Hamels began the Spring with some shoulder soreness. The fifth starter’s spot is now looking like it will go to either Jeff Manship or Mario Hollands. But for the first two weeks of the season, the Phillies will not need a fifth starter. So on Opening Day, those pitchers could both be in the bullpen as they are both versatile. The rest of the bullpen will have closer Jonathan Papelbon, setup man Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Brad Lincoln, and likely Justin De Fratus and B.J. Rosenberg. Right-handed setup man Mike Adams is still recovering from multiple shoulder operations and expects to be able to pitch early this season. Adams will be making his 2014 Grapefruit league debut Tuesday night against the Yankees.