CLEARWATER, Fla. -- What a difference.The Phillies are halfway through their Spring Training schedule, and almost nothing has resembled what happened last year. After a 5-2 win over the Rays on Tuesday, they entered Wednesday's day off at 11-4-2, which is among the best records. They have hit 23 home
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- What a difference.
The Phillies are halfway through their Spring Training schedule, and almost nothing has resembled what happened last year. After a 5-2 win over the Rays on Tuesday, they entered Wednesday's day off at 11-4-2, which is among the best records. They have hit 23 home runs, which is tied for second. They have legitimate competition for the final rotation job. The players are younger and more energetic. They have big-time prospects.
• Spring Training: Schedule | Tickets | More info
"I know they're Spring Training games," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday morning at Bright House Field, "but I've been very encouraged by the way Pete [Mackanin] has guys playing. The energy, the effort and the outcomes. We've won a lot of games this spring, and that's been a really positive thing for us."
Of course, Klentak knows Spring Training records do not predict the future. For example, the Cubs, Royals, Mets and Pirates entered Tuesday a combined 19-33.
That said …
"It's better to win than to lose," Klentak said.
Here is a look at where the Phillies stand in three important areas as they enjoy Wednesday's day off:
Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Charlie Morton and Jerad Eickhoff are locks, assuming everybody is healthy. The Phillies narrowed the fifth-starter competition Tuesday, when they optioned right-handers David Buchanan and Alec Asher to Triple-A.
Right-hander Vince Velasquez and left-handers Brett Oberholtzer and Adam Morgan are competing for the fifth job. Oberholtzer (eight scoreless innings) is out of options. The Phillies like his versatility, so at the very least, he will be in the bullpen.
The favorite entering camp seemed to be Velasquez, and that has not changed. He has the best stuff, and he is the jewel of the Ken Giles trade. But Velasquez (four earned runs in nine innings) will need to pitch well if Morgan (two earned runs in nine innings) and Oberholtzer continue to pitch like they have.
"Competition tends to bring out the best in players," Klentak said. "They've all thrown the ball really well, and they're all different. They have different track records, different strengths and different weaknesses. They're giving us a lot to think about, and that's a really positive thing."
One thing is certain: The Phillies should be better prepared to handle attrition to their rotation than last season.
There are jobs to be won. David Hernandez has one, considering the Phillies signed him to a one-year, $3.9 million contract. He pitched Tuesday for the first time since March 1 because of triceps tendinitis.
If Hernandez is healthy and ready, the other locks look like right-hander Jeanmar Gomez and Oberholtzer (unless he wins the No. 5 job). Non-roster invitees Edward Mujica (four scoreless innings) and Andrew Bailey (four scoreless innings) have impressed in camp. They have solid lines on jobs. The fact Mujica has a March 26 out clause will be a factor in making the team or not. Bailey has a May 1 out clause, which is less of a factor. Ernesto Frieri has a March 31 out clause, but he has struggled (six runs in 4 2/3 innings).
The Phillies are expected to take at least one more left-hander if Oberholtzer is in the 'pen (and two if he is not). Rule 5 Draft pick Daniel Stumpf allowed one run in six innings before allowing three in the eighth inning Monday in Sarasota, Fla. Bobby LaFromboise has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings, and non-roster invitee James Russell has pitched three scoreless innings. Elvis Araujo (two runs in four innings) has options, which figures to play a factor when matched up against somebody like Stumpf.
Right-hander Dalier Hinojosa (five scoreless innings) has pitched well.
"The players have given us a lot to consider," Klentak said. "There are a lot of players that have stepped up and have thrown the ball well. Pete has been exposing a bunch of them to multiple innings to see who has the ability to carry the load that way, and I like the options we've seen from the left side."
Do not be stunned if the Phillies acquire an outfielder before camp breaks.
Aaron Altherr will miss four to six months following left wrist surgery. Cody Asche remains sidelined with a strained right oblique. He might not be ready by Opening Day. That leaves Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos and Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Goeddel, who has impressed the GM, as the likely starters. Darnell Sweeney and non-roster invitees David Lough and Cedric Hunter, who homered against the Rays on Tuesday, are competing for the fourth and fifth jobs.
"Obviously, we'll have to make some decisions on the Opening Day roster and when Cody comes back," Klentak said. "But as far as the depth, one of the big things we're focused on is making sure we run a strong defensive club out there to help with our run prevention and to help as we introduce young pitchers to the big leagues. I want to be mindful of that.
"Even in Lough and Hunter and Goeddel, we've got players who can go out there and catch the ball. You can never have enough depth at any position, and certainly with Altherr out and Asche being banged up, that's tested our depth early in spring. The good news is that it was tested early, so hopefully when we get into the season, we'll be healthy and we'll be OK."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.