Concerns: Starter No. 5, Catcher No. 2 and Player 25

Cole Hamels sore elbow is the big topic of conversation in Clearwater and Philadelphia this week.

Hamels going down is certainly worthy of grabbing headlines. But with less than three weeks until Opening Day, a wounded ace is only one of the Phillies concerns.

The Phils still need to figure out:

  • Who will be the fifth starter?
  • Who are last two guys in the bullpen?
  • Who's going to backup Carlos Ruiz?
  • Can they carry six outfielders?

The pitching questions relate with one another. Hamels health will help to clear the air.

The race for the fifth starter is down to two guys, Chan Ho Park and J.A. Happ. (Sorry Kyle Kendrick a 12.10 ERA won't keep you in the majors.)

Both Park and Happ have been brilliant this spring. Park has a 1.54 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11.2 innings while Happ has a 2.45 ERA with nine K's in 11 innings pitched.

If Hamels is only being extra cautious with his arm pain than there is only one spot in the rotation. That spot will go to Park -- not because he has been better than Happ but because the Phils will need Happ to be another lefty in the bullpen.

With Happ in the pen the Phils only have one spot available.

Three journeymen relievers have impressed with minuscule ERA's this spring. Mike Koplove, Dave Borkowski and Gary Majewski all could land a spot on the Major League roster.

Koplove and Borkowski haven't given up a run in four appearances a piece. Majewski has a 1.29 ERA in seven innings over four games.

It's hard to handicap a clear leader among these three guys but you gotta root for Koplove, a native Philadelphian, to win the spot.

The Phillies pitching races are all competitive with multiple guys playing well. The same can't be said for the catchers.

The Phillies' backstops have stunk it up this spring. Ruiz is cemented as the No. 1 (despite a Spring Training batting average of .182) so that leaves Lou Marson, Ronny Paulino and Chris Coste battling for the backup role.

The leading candidate right now has to be Paulino. He has only batted .235 and slugged .457 this spring but those numbers far surpass Marson's (.056/.056) and Coste's (.000/.000) numbers.

Marson looks bound for the minors after his sub par spring at the plate -- that leaves Coste and Paulino.

Fan-favorite Coste, hampered by a hamstring injury, has only managed six spring at bats. If he doesn't get into full swing soon than the 33-year-old rookie could soon be the 36-year-old minor leaguer.

Assuming the Phillies only carry two catchers than they can only carry four other bench players. Eric Bruntlett and Greg Dobbs are cemented in their roles -- only two other spots remain.

Going into the season both Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins looked like the frontrunners to serve as the backup outfielders. Now, that might not be the case.

Both Jenkins and Stairs are slow-footed lefties. The Phillies need some speedy right-handed power off the bench (sorry Brunts -- your fast but power isn't your forte).

The man who could fill that role of a speedy and powerful right-hander off the bench is John Mayberry Jr.

The Phils acquired Mayberry over the off-season for Greg Golson. The deal is looking golden for the Phightins -- Mayberry has batted .256, slugged .558 with three homers and 10 RBI in 43 spring at bats.

The team won't carry six outfielders so something has to give.

The Phillies may choose to release either Jenkins or Stairs. Jenkins will go because Stairs has batted nearly 20 points higher as a pinch hitter over his career.

That means Mayberry should land a spot on the roster.

Expect there to be a lot of action over the next few weeks as the Phillies sort out their roster. And, expect no surprises.

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