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Valentin has edge on bench role with stellar ST

Young utilityman slugs 3-run homer, now has .986 spring OPS; Nola goes 5 strong; Hamels likes Arrieta deal
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

FT. MYERS, Fla. -- Last spring, Jesmuel Valentin had been one of three candidates for two spots on the Phillies' bench. But he lost that battle to Brock Stassi and Daniel Nava.

Valentin could win out this year. The switch-hitter ripped a game-tying, three-run home run in the seventh inning Sunday in a 4-3 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium. That follows his walk-off home run Tuesday against the Rays at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla. Valentin not only is hitting .281 (9-for-32) with two doubles, three home runs, 11 RBIs and a .986 OPS, but he has showed his versatility defensively, too, playing everywhere except catcher and first base.

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FT. MYERS, Fla. -- Last spring, Jesmuel Valentin had been one of three candidates for two spots on the Phillies' bench. But he lost that battle to Brock Stassi and Daniel Nava.

Valentin could win out this year. The switch-hitter ripped a game-tying, three-run home run in the seventh inning Sunday in a 4-3 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium. That follows his walk-off home run Tuesday against the Rays at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla. Valentin not only is hitting .281 (9-for-32) with two doubles, three home runs, 11 RBIs and a .986 OPS, but he has showed his versatility defensively, too, playing everywhere except catcher and first base.

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Video: TB@PHI: Valentin hits a three-run walk-off homer

"So far, I think I'm doing a great job," Valentin said. "The difference this year is more versatility. I'm playing more positions. I've played around 40 innings in the outfield. Last year, I did not do that. I've had more innings at third base, so I'm showing them that I am not only a second baseman and shortstop."

There will likely be two bench spots available again, potentially three, if the Phillies open the season with only four starters. Valentin, Roman Quinn and Pedro Florimon are on the 40-man roster, which gives those three an advantage over others in camp. The other top bench candidates are non-roster invitees Ryan Flaherty and Adam Rosales.

Flaherty can opt out of his contract if he is not placed on the roster by Thursday. Rosales has no out clause.

"I know what he did last year," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said about Valentin. "He's having an exceptional spring this year. He was awesome in Puerto Rico this winter. At some point, you start to say this is real, against very real competition. The sample size gets larger and larger and you start to really believe in him because of that."

Nola is ready to roll
Aaron Nola will make one more Grapefruit League start before he pitches for the Phillies on Opening Day against the Braves in Atlanta.

Nola allowed four hits, two runs and two walks in five innings Sunday against the Twins. He struck out three. He faced six batters in a long second inning, but needed just 31 pitches to get through his final three frames.

Video: PHI@MIN: Nola K's Morrison in the 1st inning

"You're going to have outings like that, when you have to battle out an inning," Nola said. "Sometimes you're going to have to grind through it. Part of this game kind of felt like that, but I felt like I settled after that."

Nola has allowed two runs in nine innings in his last two Grapefruit League starts.

Video: PHI@MIN: Nola talks battling through early struggles

Hamels likes Arrieta deal
Former Phillies ace Cole Hamels will be Texas' Opening Day pitcher in less than two weeks. He recently discussed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million contract.

"Philly has some good pitchers and they have a lot of young guys who can learn from Arrieta," Hamels said. "They are making strides and trying to be competitive. It's a fun sports city to play for. I know they have been chomping at the bit to get relevant again. That's definitely going to put them on the map."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Arrieta update
Kapler said the Phillies are discussing various scenarios for Arrieta, who threw a simulated game Saturday in Clearwater. It is unclear when Arrieta will join the Phillies' rotation, but the first week of the season remains a possibility.

"Everything is still on the table," Kapler said. "We will do nothing that puts Jake or us at risk long term. The long view is always in mind."

Up next
Right-hander Drew Hutchison (1-0, 4.22) starts Monday's Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox in Ft. Myers. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. Hutchison is a non-roster invitee with an outside chance of making the Opening Day roster. The game will be broadcast live on an exclusive audio webcast at phillies.com.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, Jesmuel Valentin