We're just days away from glorified jogging and stretching as pitchers and catchers officially report to Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday.
Spring training means warm weather, green grass and yada, yada, yada, but on Beerleaguer, it marks the beginning of a fresh set of story lines we’ll follow until opening day. Not the kind where writers fish for deep meaning, like “What does the season mean for Pat Burrell?” or “Does Cole Hamels have his sights set on something bigger?” and all that. Instead, this is the season when Beerleaguer harvests a fresh crop of micro-minutiae that will form the basis for month-long discussion. Classic Beerleaguer, ripe for the picking.
The questions: By all accounts, there are two openings in the bullpen and one in the rotation. There are two Rule 5 picks to audition. There are several pitchers who’re out of options (J.D. Durbin, Francisco Rosario, Clay Condrey) who will be competing for jobs in the rotation and pen. The decision to keep 11 or 12 pitchers will determine whether certain players, namely Chris Snelling, makes the 25-man roster. Wes Helms has little purpose and will be shopped. And finally, the health of Adam Eaton and Brad Lidge will dictate Charlie Manuel’s decisions most.
With this much drama, who has time for Ryan Howard’s contract?
Early predictions: The fifth starter spot is settled with someone other than Chad Durbin, freeing him up to become next season’s all-purpose and heavily-taxed middle reliever. Snelling shines and makes it hard for the Phils to leave him off the 25-man. None of the prospects (Scott Mathieson, Josh Outman, JA Happ, Zach Segovia, Jason Jaramillo, Joe Bisenius) factor into the Phillies’ plans whatsoever. The Rule 5 picks will be offered back to their original clubs, and they will refuse them. Shane Youman will be issued an early assignment to minor league camp. Mike Zagurski will not be fully healed from his hamstring injury. Fabio Castro and J.D. Durbin will last until the final cuts ... and both make it.