CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies will open their 135th season two weeks from today in Cincinnati.
As the team begins to wind down its stay in Florida, there are still some interesting roster decisions to be made.
Let's take a look.
First, what we know -- barring an injury or late development, of course.
The starting pitching rotation will consist of Jeremy Hellickson, who was named opening day starter on Sunday (see story). He will be followed by Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola.
The starting eight position players are set with a projected batting order of:
Cesar Hernandez, 2B
Howie Kendrick, LF
Odubel Herrera, CF
Maikel Franco, 3B
Michael Saunders, RF
Tommy Joseph, 1B
Cameron Rupp, C
Freddy Galvis, SS
OK, let's move on to a couple of areas that are still unsettled.
Pete Mackanin will carry five men on his bench. Utility infielder Andres Blanco and outfielder Aaron Altherr are locks.
That leaves three spots, one of which must be a backup catcher. The Phillies have a very tight 40-man roster and they don't want to risk losing too many players on waivers. This should ultimately work in Andrew Knapp's favor. He is already on the 40-man roster and that could help him get the nod, even though he has not shined with the bat this spring.
Veterans Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday are the other candidates for backup catcher, but they could end up on the wrong side of the equation because neither is on the 40-man roster.
So let's say Knapp is the third guy on the bench.
Who are the other two?
Infielder Jesmuel Valentin is still in camp and he's on the 40-man roster. But we see him heading to Triple A, where he can play second base every day. In fact, the way this roster shapes up, Blanco will probably be the only extra infielder. If the Phils get in a pinch, Kendrick can help at second or third -- in fact, he took balls at third a few days ago -- while the Phils summon help from the minors.
Outfielder Tyler Goeddel, also on the 40-man roster, is still in camp, but he'd benefit from time in the minors, where he could recoup the at-bats he lost as a Rule 5 stash last season.
So, now we're basically down to three players for the final two spots on the bench -- and none of them are on the 40-man roster.
It's going to be difficult to keep Brock Stassi off this roster. He has swung the bat exceptionally well in camp and played well at first base. His lefty bat could be nice to have around when Tommy Joseph gets a day off against a righty pitcher. He can also play the corner outfield spots.
The guess here -- two weeks before the gates open in Cincinnati -- is that Stassi makes the club.
That leaves Chris Coghlan and Daniel Nava competing for the final spot on the bench. Coghlan plays three outfield spots and both corner infield spots. Nava plays corner outfield, first base, and he's hitting .429 with a 1.051 OPS this spring. Tough call there. Right now, Nava might have the edge.
Coghlan does have an out in his minor-league contract during the final week of camp and Nava does not. That may not be a factor.
Moving to the bullpen, five of the seven spots are filled with:
They are all right-handers.
Manager Pete Mackanin would like to have two lefties in the bullpen, though he might end up with just one.
The simple way of solving this would be to carry Joely Rodriguez and Adam Morgan, both of whom are on the 40-man roster. That would leave veterans Cesar Ramos and Sean Burnett out. Burnett has an out in his contract during the final week, while Ramos does not, so maybe he would stick around and go to Triple A and wait for a shot.
The complication here could be Luis Garcia. The hard-throwing right-hander, who is on the 40-man roster, has added a splitter to his repertoire and some are intrigued by that. And then there's the whole question of a long man. Could Morgan fill that role, or would the club use right-hander Alec Asher there, leaving Rodriguez as the only lefty?
So it looks as if there are four legitimate candidates -- Rodriguez, Morgan, Asher and Garcia -- for the final two spots in the bullpen. All are aided by their place on the 40-man roster.
In the end, the Phils will likely have to clear two spots on the 40-man roster to finalize their opening day roster. The team could roll the dice and try to get Goeddel through waivers, though that might be tough to do because there is probably some team out there that would claim a young outfielder with options.
Morgan's place is so unpredictable that he could make the team as a long man or be the victim of a roster squeeze and end up on waivers sometime next week.
Of course, a trade or an injury could clear up a lot of questions. But two weeks before opening day, the Phillies clearly have some interesting decisions to make.