It's the last off day of spring training. Over the next 10 days, the Phillies will play 10 games, and then it will be Opening Night, and the Braves will be in town, and it will more than likely be cold and gray and raining.
So, with a week and a half remaining, let's break down where the team has been, and where it is going.
I. Three unheralded stars of spring:
1) INF Eric Bruntlett: Nobody has played in more spring games than he has, and few on the spring roster have done it with as much success. In addition to hitting .345 with a .463 OBP and a team-leading 13 runs scored, he has played virtually every position on the field, including a decent amount in center field early in the spring.
2) OF Jayson Werth: With so much attention being paid to Chase Utley and Cole Hamels and the fifth starter's spot, Werth has quietly ripped four home runs. One of those home runs came against David Purcey yesterday. Remember that name? David Purcey? He gave up two of the home runs in Werth's three-home run game last season.
3) RHP Gary Majewski: He has shown he can go multiple innings, throwing 11.0 in six appearances while allowing four earned runs and striking out eight while walking three. If Chan Ho Park wins the No. 5 spot in the rotation, I think Majewski is a virtual lock for the team, barring a trade. Even if Park is in the bullpen, I can see the Phils giving him a spot when they go with 12 pitchers.
II. Three predictions:
1) J.A. Happ will win the fifth spot in the rotation. As good as Chan Ho Park has been, the Phillies won't ignore the success he had last season as a reliever. This is a guy who hasn't had a healthy season as a starter since 2001. Is that unfair to him? Maybe. But they project Happ as a starter, even if they are open to keeping him in the bullpen as a second lefty should he lose the battle, and Park has had success as a reliever and spot starter. I think they go with Happ to start the season and tell Park, hey, look, there is a very good chance you will end up getting to start. And then they let things play out. Injuries are bound to happen. Performance issues could arise. As Amaro said the other day, this thing is "fluid." But Happ gets the call at the start of the season.
2) The Phillies will start the season with six bench players. Whether that sixth is Miguel Cairo or John Mayberry Jr. remains to be seen. Marcus Giles is still in camp, but I can't see them going with him over Cairo. Cairo is more versatile, has demonstrated more success in the role he would inherit, and, according to one baseball man I talked to at one point this spring, is faster as well. Giles has more pop in his bat, at least he has shown more pop in his big league career, but I don't think that will be enough for the Phillies to keep him around. Besides, Cairo has an opt-out on Opening Day if he isn't on the big league roster. Mayberry is a possibility if the Phillies feel they absolutely need some right-handed power. But I don't think they think they absolutely need some right-handed power (keep in mind they do have Chris Coste). The So Taguchi signing last year is a pretty good indication of what they are looking for in that bench spot. Obviously, Taguchi didn't work out. But they'd like to have another player who hits right-handed and can run the bases and can handle the bat in situational situations (OK, I know, that's redundant). I'm not saying Cairo sticks around once the Phillies expand their roster to 12 pitchers. But I think the Phillies will give themselves an extra week to figure out how to finalize their Five.
3) Chris Coste will make the team. Against the Yankees, Ronny Paulino threw a pitchout into center field. Defensive lapses such as that are part of the reason why he fell out of favor in Pittsburgh. Although Coste hasn't had a great spring at the plate, the Phillies know what he can do. The big question, then, is what the Phillies do with their minor league catching set-up. Paulino would likely start the season in Triple-A, but that would force Lou Marson to remain in Double A.
III. How the rotation currently sets up:
The Phillies have scheduled their pitchers through April 1st. Right now it looks like a sure thing that Brett Myers pitches Opening Night. Here is how I project the rest of the rotation setting up at this moment. I'm going to guess that J.A. Happ starts the season in Triple A, since the Phillies would not need a fifth starter until April 15th. At that point, I predict the Phillies expand to 12 pitchers, call Happ up, and have him start that game. This would enable Happ to start the season opener at Lehigh Valley on April 9th. The way I have it set up, the Phillies would then have their rotation essentially in order -- Hamels then Myers then Moyer then Blanton then No. 5 -- for the rest of the month.
March 26: Carlos Carrasco.
March 27: Brett Myers
March 28: Jamie Moyer and J.A. Happ
March 29: Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels
March 30: Chan Ho Park
March 31: Myers
April 1: Carrasco
April 2: Jamie Moyer*
April 3: Joe Blanton*
April 4: Cole Hamels*
April 5 (Braves): Myers*
April 7 (Braves): Moyer*
April 8 (Braves): Blanton*
April 10 (Rockies): Hamels*
April 11 (Rockies): Myers*
April 12 (Rockies): Moyer*
April 13 (Nationals): Blanton*
April 15 (Nationals): Happ/Park*