What we're watching today

Reliever David Herndon, selected in the Rule 5 draft, continues to impress the Phillies' coaching staff this spring. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Welcome to Osceola County Stadium, where the Phillies make their final road trip of the Grapefruit League season to take on the Astros. Opening day is less than a week away now, so we'll be a little more focused on the actual game than earlier in the spring.

Here are three things we are watching for today:

1. Raul Ibanez returns to the lineup -- so now what?
Is it time to worry about Ibanez? No. It's March. Yes, he is hitting .098 (4 for 41) this spring. Yes, he had a bad second half of 2009. Yes, he had off-season sports hernia surgery.

But it's March. Would the Phillies like to see Ibanez's timing come around before the real games start? Sure. So we'll see what Ibanez can do in the final few days. He hasn't played since Friday with a bruised right elbow after being hit by a Royce Ring pitch against the Yankees.

2. Does the spectacular spring of David Herndon continue?
Just about everybody is waiting for Herndon to throw a clunker. It hasn't happened yet. Herndon hasn't allowed a run in 9 1/3 innings. He has been dominant while throwing basically just one pitch, a sinker. He has toyed with a few sliders, but it's mostly sinker, sinker, sinker.

The Rule 5 pick is effectively a lock to make the opening day roster at this point. We think. The Phillies haven't made any official decisions yet, so Herndon can't afford a massive slip up to put doubts in the decision-makers' minds.

3. Where does Jose Contreras fit in?
It hasn't exactly been a great spring for Contreras. He is 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA in 11 1/3 innings this spring. In his last outing, he allowed three runs in 2/3 of an inning against Minnesota. Before that, he walked two batters and allowed two unearned runs against Houston.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Contreras isn't ready to pitch on back-to-back days, so at this point, Contreras appears to be looking at a role as a long man in the bullpen. Manager Charlie Manuel hasn't exactly been pleased with the recent performance of some of his relievers. A decent finish to the spring for any of the middle relievers could mean an increased role in the first week of the season.


1. Jimmy Rollins 6
2. Placido Polanco 5
3. Chase Utley 4
4. Ryan Howard 3
5. Jayson Werth 9
6. Raul Ibanez 7
7. Shane Victorino 8
8. Brian Schneider 2
9. Kyle Kendrick 1

Kendrick will be relieved by Contreras and Herndon.

Carlos Ruiz, Greg Dobbs, Ross Gload and Juan Castro all stayed behind to play a minor-league game in Tampa against the Yankees.

Brad Lidge will also be pitching in a minor-league game later on.