CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Is there an Eddie Oropesa in Phillies camp this spring?Is there a Brock Stassi?The Phillies open their Grapefruit League season on Friday against the Blue Jays at 1:07 p.m. ET in Dunedin, Fla., which means it's not too early to think about dark-horse candidates to make the
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Is there an Eddie Oropesa in Phillies camp this spring?
Is there a Brock Stassi?
The Phillies open their Grapefruit League season on Friday against the Blue Jays at 1:07 p.m. ET in Dunedin, Fla., which means it's not too early to think about dark-horse candidates to make the Opening Day roster.
Grizzled Phillies fans probably remember Oropesa pitching 13 2/3 scoreless innings during Spring Training in 2001 to make the team as a tremendous longshot. Phillies fans certainly remember Stassi's emotional reaction after making the team as a dark horse last spring.
The Phillies have had other longshots make the Opening Day roster in seasons past. The list includes Cedric Hunter in 2016, Mario Hollands in '14 and Joe Bisenius in '07.
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Here is a look at four dark-horse candidates to make the Phillies' 2018 Opening Day roster. They might not have the same underdog story as Stassi -- only one player here has not appeared in the big leagues, and he was selected in the second round of the 2015 Draft -- but they will have to overcome their share of obstacles to make the roster.
LHP Zac Curtis
The Phillies claimed Curtis off waivers from the Mariners in September, and he allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings. He is on the 40-man roster, but he might sit behind fellow left-handers Adam Morgan, Hoby Milner and Fernando Abad, who joined camp this week as a non-roster invitee, in a battle to make the team's eight-man bullpen. Curtis is intriguing. His fastball averaged just 91.4 mph last season, but he has posted 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings in four Minor League seasons. Morgan seems like a lock to make the team, so if the Phillies want to carry two left-handers, Curtis will need to outpitch Milner and Abad, who must be placed on the roster by March 22 or he can become a free agent.
RHP Tom Eshelman
The Phillies named Eshelman their Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017. If they do not sign a starter like Jacob Arrieta, there will be a serious competition to be the team's No. 5 starter. The pitchers in that mix likely include Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Mark Leiter Jr. and Eshelman. Eshelman is at a disadvantage, because he is not on the 40-man roster. Even if he pitches well, it is difficult to imagine the Phillies not giving one of those other pitchers a chance to start the season with the club. So Eshelman -- the only player on this list who hasn't yet appeared in a big league game -- will really have to dominate any time he pitches this spring to move past them.
OF Roman Quinn
The Phillies plan to carry an eight-man bullpen, which means they will have only four position players on the bench. One of them will be a second catcher. Another will be an outfielder. That leaves two spots. The Phillies likely will want those two players to be versatile. Non-roster invitees Pedro Florimon or Adam Rosales could take one or both jobs, because they can play both infield and outfield. But the switch-hitting Quinn is interesting, because of his speed, arm and range in the outfield. He is a weapon, which is why the Phillies have had him taking some ground balls in the infield this spring. The infield is not Quinn's future, but they want to make sure he can play there in a pinch. Of course, Quinn has missed a ton of time the past few seasons, including much of last season with an elbow injury. Maybe he is better served getting some at-bats early in Triple-A and joining the Phillies later.
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
It is hard to imagine Rodriguez as a dark horse candidate, but he is after signing a Minor League contract.
Rodriguez posted a 7.82 ERA in 28 appearances before the Tigers released him last season. The Nationals released him, too. For Rodriguez to make the team, he will have to pitch extremely well, showing he can get hitters out with a fastball that averaged 89.6 mph last season.
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.