Phillies 9, Braves 0: Brock Stassi Shines — So What Else Is New?

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Brock Stassi's campaign to make the Phillies' opening day roster gained more steam on Tuesday.

In the very role that he is auditioning for, one that would have him come off the bench to offer some good glove work at first base and some timely hitting, Stassi did a little of both in the Phillies' 9-0 win over the Atlanta Braves at Spectrum Field.

The 27-year-old career minor-leaguer replaced Tommy Joseph in the field in the third inning (see story) and made two nice defensive plays and added two more hits, including a two-run home run. The homer was Stassi's fifth of the spring, moving him into a tie for the most in the majors this exhibition season.

"I think everybody likes him," manager Pete Mackanin said. "You have to like him. Not only has he had a good spring offensively, but the at-bats he gives us are quality at-bats versus righties and lefties. And he's a well-above-average defender. He's fun to watch play."

Stassi is 13 for 31 (.419) on the spring. He is bidding to win a spot on the Phillies' bench as a backup first baseman/outfielder.

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Eick is sharp
Jerad Eickhoff, who lines up to start the second game of the regular season, was sharp and economical in his fourth start of the spring. He needed just 62 pitches to get through five shutout innings. He gave up three hits, a walk and struck out five. Eickhoff was so economical with his pitch count that he threw 13 pitches in the bullpen after the outing to stretch his total to 75.

Benoit ramping up
The Phillies wanted to improve their bullpen in the offseason. They hope the additions of veterans Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit will do that. 

Neshek is pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Phillies, meanwhile, have eased the 39-year-old Benoit into action. He made just his second appearance Tuesday and was rusty. He walked a batter and hit two others, but did not allow a run.

Benoit showed plenty of arm strength, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth by striking out Emilio Bonifacio on a 95-mph fastball.

"He threw the ball hard," Mackanin said. "I was surprised. He had great velocity. He was rusty, but I liked what I saw coming out of his hand."

Williams improving
Plate discipline was a big problem for prospect Nick Williams at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He drew just two walks over his final 66 games and had a woeful .236 on-base percentage over that span.

Williams, who will open back at Triple A this season, is focusing on improving that aspect of his game this spring, and there have been signs of progress. He drew two walks on Tuesday and now has four in 29 plate appearances.

"Matt Stairs has been working on his approach, to soften his approach instead of jumping out after the ball," Mackanin said. "He seems to be showing improvement."

Up next
The Phillies play the Yankees in Tampa on Wednesday night. The team will get a look at utility man Chris Coghlan at second base in that game. Coghlan is bidding to make the team as a non-roster player.

Clay Buchholz will start on the mound against Michael Pineda.

Here is the posted lineup for the game, though there surely will be some changes after Joseph was hit on the left hand by a pitch Tuesday:

Chris Coghlan, 2B
Freddy Galvis, SS
Howie Kendrick, LF
Maikel Franco, 3B
Michael Saunders, RF
Tommy Joseph, 1B
Cameron Rupp, C
Aaron Altherr, CF
Andrew Knapp, DH

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