CLEARWATER, Fla. - Usually when baseball teams make moves at this point of the spring, it's an indication that the final pieces of the roster jigsaw are falling into place.
But there were no surprises in the series of roster moves the Phillies made yesterday morning. Early spring sensation John Mayberry Jr. and fifth-starter candidate Carlos Carrasco were optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley. Infielder Marcus Giles, attempting a comeback after sitting out last season, was released. And South Philadelphia native Mike Koplove, outfielder Jason Ellison and infielder Pablo Ozuna were informed that they will not start the season in the big leagues, but will accompany the team to Philadelphia for this weekend's On Deck Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
As a result, they're basically facing the same decisions they were before thinning out the herd, with the deadline to set the final roster looming at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
There are 28 players still in camp who either have spots locked up or are viable candidates to make the final cut.
And how this all plays out will hinge largely on one issue: Will the Phillies open with 11 pitchers or the more traditional 12?
There are currently 14 pitchers, with Rule 5 draft pick Bobby Mosebach (9.39 Grapefruit League ERA) and nonroster righthander Gary Majewski seemingly the most at risk.
If they decide to go with 11 - a possibility since there are three scheduled open dates in the first week of the season - that would mean that all the remaining position players, including veteran infielder Miguel Cairo, could make it.
The most logical way to accomplish that would be to put Chan Ho Park in the bullpen, name J.A. Happ the fifth starter and then send Happ to Lehigh Valley until he's needed for the first time on April 20. After being optioned, he would have to spend at least 10 days in the minors.
That would also buy them some time - 2 weeks - to see if there's a market for one of their two veteran lefthanded-hitting outfielders, Matt Stairs or Geoff Jenkins, and to assess newly acquired lefthanded reliever Jack Taschner.
Still in camp:
Pitchers (14): Joe Blanton, Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, Cole Hamels, Happ, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Majewski, Mosebach, Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers, Park, Taschner.
Catchers (two): Chris Coste, Carlos Ruiz.
Infielders (seven): Eric Bruntlett, Cairo, Greg Dobbs, Pedro Feliz, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley.
Outfielders (five): Raul Ibanez, Jenkins, Stairs, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth. *