Even though many are penciling in the two new starters, Jonathan Pettibone is in the conversation for the Opening Day rotation of the Philadelphia Phillies. But who will begin the campaign at Triple-A Lehigh Valley?
Please, scroll down for this edition of Nitecap Insight: Timeline Analysis.
This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Most fans do not consider the budget, prospects on the radar, the organization’s weaknesses, the track record, the competition and the other intangibles.
There will be a published storyline each week.
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Reporting dates carry a greater importance than the average fan understands.
When does spring training begin? For 2014, the majority would say February 13 for battery positions or five days later otherwise. However, baseball lifers–like Ruben Amaro Jr.–judge each athlete by his interest and dedication. In other words, baring a guaranteed job, a January arriver sets the tone for the others.
Players–awesome, early or completely green–fall annually into three spring categories. The scheduled dates are basically the deadline for stars and regulars. Across this spectrum, Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz and Ben Revere slowly round into regimen-tailored form, which they complete days before meaningful results.
The minor league invitees have earned the opportunity to impress the coaches, skipper, scouts, advisers and the general manager. Before the first cuts, these hopefuls are applying for higher-level promotions, a September call-up or injury-replacement consideration.
Early shows are the most interesting group. When more people than jobs exist, coming to camp in January gives them a slight edge.
Pettibone and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will fight for one slot, while BJ Rosenberg, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and Ethan Martin will battle for two pen openings. Competing for two infield reserve spots are Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen and Cesar Hernandez, while the two bench outfielders will come from Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Bobby Abreu.
Baring any new wrinkles, seven roles have 12 candidates.
The starting staff includes Hamels, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez. While the relief corps features Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Brad Lincoln, Chad Gaudin is the innings eater and emergency starter with a team-protected minor league contract.
Pettibone initially arrived in early January at Clearwater and returned again after minor league banquet week. Even though he had shoulder and biceps tendinitis, those difficulties have been behind him since early November. His extra preparation will allow a more comfortable pace to be ready for camp’s first scheduled day, and the extra effort puts him in position to realize his dream.
In his Cuban homeland, Gonzalez received an indefinite suspension for unsuccessfully defecting. During that imposed two-year layoff, he had elbow surgery for bone spurs. However, before he signed in late August, he had produced two healthy Mexican outings. His six months by April 1 at the Carpenter Complex might buy him a beginning in the majors if he is ready; otherwise, he lands in Lehigh Valley and on the GM’s speed dial.
Two bullpen seats are available after Lincoln and Gaudin fill two required spots: experienced reliever and long man.
Diekman got settled in for his extended spring around mid-January. After a few major league attempts, he made huge strides in 2014’s second half. He, no doubt, understands he has a legit shot at making the red pinstripes: The prediction here is an affirmative.
Rosenberg is the other strong candidate to travel north for Opening Day. Like Diekman, he produced with Atlanta’s home-field advantage at stake. If he dedicates himself, he should win a role without difficulty. The pair project to be a left-right combination for the future pen’s back end.
Potential Set-up Men:
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Struggling more than Diekman and Rosenberg in the second half despite nasty stuff, De Fratus is in Clearwater early demonstrating his desire for an MLB career. However, he may only make the squad if Adams is not ready: The veteran’s situation is a hope for the best.
With a mid-90’s heater, Martin’s all-out style is typical of a one-frame fireballer. He frequently found trouble after going through the lineup once and often had control problems. Those starts revealed that his tomorrow obviously is in the back of the bullpen. For relieving experience, he probably needs some time in Lehigh Valley.
Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cody Asche are the regulars; but there are three gloves for two bench jobs. Along the warning track, the Phils have Revere, Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown, but the franchise has only two roles for three reserve outfielders.
Galvis has been nothing short of spectacular at second base, shortstop and the hot corner. If he can consistently hit .250, he should nail down a roster slot.
Hernandez has the bat that his Triple-A teammate lacks. However, last September he neither walked often nor took advantage of his speed. Unless the player has pop, the better defender usually has the upper hand, which could mean Hernandez has a Lehigh Valley April.
Ruf is on the bubble with Mayberry and Abreu. In Amaro’s search for left-side power, he brought back the gifted batsman, and the position is his if he can do it. On the right side, Mayberry can play center field and bash homers; however, Ruf has untapped potential, while Mayberry has reached his peak. With all three presenting a reason to stick, management will face a tough late March decision.
So far, Pettibone, Diekman and De Fratus are in camp: They mean business. On the other hand, Gonzalez has spent many months at the Carpenter Complex because the organization wants him in the rotation.
When February 16 arrives, the baseball lifer will remember the guys who came in January for that April opening.
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