There aren’t many spots still left to be sorted out for the Phillies at Spring Training.
The rotation (outside of the fifth starter) is set, the bench (barring injury is set) and the lineup is set -- leaving the bullpen as the only place with much drama in Clearwater.
The seventh man in the bullpen is up for grabs. There could be two more open spots on Opening Day as well if closer Brad Lidge and reliever J.C. Romero are not ready to go. (Even though both recently told Phillies.com that they planned to be back in time for the opener).
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With everyone healthy the Phils bullpen should feature Lidge, Romero, Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin with newcomers Danys Baez and Jose Contreras. That leaves one spot open for the rest of the relievers to battle it out.
Lidge and Romero are recovering from off-season surgeries but were optimistic about pitching on opening day after throwing recently. Romero’s presence may be more important than Lidge's because J.C. is the only left-handed reliever in the pen right now.
Romero’s absence would certainly leave the bullpen door wide open for young lefties Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona and Mike Zagurski. Even though these guys aren't household names, Phillies fans could recognize them from short big league stints.
Even with Romero healthy the Phils would most likely want another left-handed specialist in their bullpen after veteran southpaw Scott Eyre called it a career.
Escalona and Bastardo have the advantage of being lefties and having played at times last year.
The righties are a bit more interesting. Herndon was a Rule 5 draft pick from the L.A. Angels and would need to stay on the roster to stick with the organization. While, Mathieson hopes to return from Tommy John surgery. He started eight games in 2006 and posted a 7.47 ERA before he was shut down with various arm problems.
Assuming everyone stays healthy, Bastardo could be the favorite. He should have something to prove after fizzling out as a starter last season. And, the Phillies had enough confidence in the Dominican hurler to place him on the postseason roster (even if he only made two appearances).
If Lidge and Romero both aren't ready in time it would be hard to pick from the other three choices. Escalona could be a good option against lefties, Mathieson has experience (and a fire arm) and Herndon they could want to stash away so they don't lose him.
There is also the possibility that the loser in the battle for the fifth starter in the rotation could move to the bullpen. Starters Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer both have experience coming out of the bullpen in the past.
All of these questions will be answered on come April 5 when the Phils travel to Washington to open against the Nationals.
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