The Phillies actually play a game today, so I thought it would be a good time to update my guess at who makes the opening day roster.

Not a whole lot has happened since my most recent guess, which came in mid-January:

  • The news about Utley’s health has largely been good. Multiple reports have suggested that he may be ready for the start of the regular season.
  • News about Pedro Feliz’s recovery from back injury has been less encouraging and his readiness for opening day is looking possible but not as sure as some had previously thought.
  • The Phillies signed utility man Miguel Cairo.

It’s very hard to know whether Utley or Feliz are going to be ready to go when the season starts. I’m going to guess they both will at this point. That would give the Phillies ten hitters on the team:


Player

Position
1
Ryan Howard

1B
2 Chase Utley
2B
3
Jimmy Rollins

SS
4
Pedro Feliz

3B
5
Shane Victorino

OF
6
Jayson Werth

OF
7
Raul Ibanez

OF
8
OF
9
Carlos Ruiz
C
10 C
11
Eric Bruntlett

UT
12
Greg Dobbs

3B/OF
13
UT
14

Three spots left. One has to go to a catcher and another to a fourth outfielder.

The top candidates for the three spots look to be Jason Donald, John Mayberry, Marcus Giles, Miguel Cairo, Ronny Paulino, Chris Coste, Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins.

Of the three spots one has to go to either Paulino or Coste. Jenkins is a strong front-runner for the second. I think Jenkins is on the team as the fourth outfielder, partly because he’s harder to trade than Stairs because of his contract. He is also far better defensively.

I’ve been saying I think Paulino is the second catcher all along, but my confidence is wavering. I will stick with Paulino, but I do think the chances that Coste makes the team improve as camp progresses without the Phillies adding a right-handed hitter. This article suggests that Coste is the front-runner over Paulino coming into camp.

If Coste were to be the second catcher behind Ruiz, it would solve one of the Phillies other problems in what to do with Coste. They could send him (or Paulino) to the minors, but I would guess they don’t want to. Coste as the backup catcher would presumably kill Paulino’s chances to make the team, but I’m less sure Paulino as the backup catcher would kill Coste’s chances. I think if Coste won the backup catcher spot it would open up the final spot for Giles, Donald or Cairo.

If the final hitter comes from the group above, my guess it would be Coste or Stairs. I don’t think it will, though. I will still guess the Phils make a trade, sending Stairs, or Stairs and Coste, to someone to bring back a right-handed hitter who will take the final hitting spot on the roster.

There are only so many things the Phils can do with Stairs, including putting him on the team, trading him or releasing him. Putting him on the team makes him a sluggish corner outfielder who is the sixth left-handed bat along with Utley, Howard, Ibanez, Jenkins, and Dobbs. Assuming they also will continue to play Bruntlett in the outfield, it would also make him their sixth outfielder. Releasing him, especially since one would think his $1 million contract would make him desirable to other teams, doesn’t seem that likely either. That seems to leave trading him.

If Feliz isn’t ready to go to start the year, my guess is the Phils would go with a Bruntlett/Dobbs platoon at third. It would open another spot on the roster, at least temporarily. I would guess Miguel Cairo, given his experience playing third as well as his ability to play multiple positions, might become a more attractive option for the Phils if that were the case.

Ten of the Phillies pitching spots are likely to be filled by these guys:


Player

Position
1
Cole Hamels (left)

SP
2
Brett Myers (right)

SP
3
Joe Blanton (right)

SP
4
Jamie Moyer (left)

SP
5
SP
6
Ryan Madson (right)
 RP
7
Chan Ho Park (right)

SP/RP
8
Clay Condrey (right)

RP
9
Scott Eyre (left)

RP
10
Chad Durbin (right)

RP
11  
RP
12
Brad Lidge (right)

CLOSER

Two spots left and my guess for each stays the same.

I like Kendrick to win the fifth starter job over Chan Ho Park, JA Happ and Carlos Carrasco. I think Park goes to the pen and Happ joins him as the second lefty along with Eyre.

I will be interested to see if the fifth starter job actually goes to the player of those four who pitches the best in spring training. I think the answer may be no. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem if it’s Happ or Carrasco who pitches the best. Carrasco can’t be too surprised if he starts the year in the minors at age 21 coming off a year when he threw to a 4.32 ERA at Double-A. I think Happ has a good chance to make the team anyway and should have known better than to be left-handed. But if Park, who clearly wants to start, out pitches Kendrick and doesn’t win the spot things could get interesting quickly.

Another possibility is that the Phils could trade Stairs (or, less likely, Jenkins or Coste) to bring in a second lefty. Or they could sign a left-handed reliever. In either of those cases, I think it would really make it a three-way duel for the fifth starter job between Happ, Kendrick and Park rather than Park and Kendrick battling it out.

So here’s my overall guess at this point:

Hitters (13): Howard, Utley, Rollins, Feliz, Ibanez, Victorino, Werth, Ruiz, Bruntlett, Dobbs, Paulino, Jenkins and a right-handed hitter not currently with the team.

Pitchers (12): Hamels, Myers, Blanton, Moyer, Kendrick, Madson, Happ, Condrey, Eyre, Durbin, Park, Lidge.

Dobbs would like the chance to hit against lefties. He has 55 plate appearances against lefties and 781 against righties for his career.

Victorino will not be playing in the World Baseball Classic.

Jason Donald will start at second base in today’s game against Pittsburgh. Moyer, Blanton, Scott Nestor, Joe Bisenius, Dave Borkowski, Mike Koplove and Jake Woods are expected to pitch for the Phils.