The Final 37: How it shakes out to the Opening Day 25
The Phillies sent three players out of major league camp today: right-handed pitchers Scott Elarton and Brian Sanches and left-hander Jake Diekman.
With nine days left until Opening Day, 37 players remain.
Of course, only 25 players can be on an active major league roster, so between now and the time the Phils arrive at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, 12 players will have to be subtracted from that mix.
Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will begin the season on the disabled list, barring a miracle. So will Michael Martinez. Justin De Fratus is throwing off the mound today after battling elbow soreness early in camp and hasn't pitched in a game since last fall. Subtract those four and we're down to 33.
The Philllies will not carry more than two catchers. Since Brian Schneider would figure to be a shoo-in for the backup job, subtract Tuffy Gosewisch and Eric Kratz. 31.
Figuring out the final six has a lot to do with how the Phils decide to handle the first week of the season. Since they have two days off early and have already all but guaranteed that fifth starter Joe Blanton will begin the season in the pen (they simply don't need a fifth starter until mid-April), let's take a guess that they decide to go with 11 pitchers (and not the usual 12) on Opening Day.
The logic: they only need four starters and with three infielders out (Howard, Utley and Martinez) the Phils could use a deeper bench, too.
If the Phils go with a six-man bullpen, it will include Jonathan Papelbon, Kyle Kendrick, Chad Qualls, Antonio Bastardo and (as long as he remains on track) Jose Contreras. Four players remain for the final spot: right-handers Mike Stutes and David Herndon and lefties Raul Valdes and Joe Savery.
Of that trio, only one of those names was on last year's postseason roster: Stutes. So we'll give him the leg up on the competition.
If we're erasing the other three from the Opening Day roster, we're now down to 29. Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz, Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino are ever day players and, for figuring-out-roster purposes, we're also assuming both Ty Wigginton and John Mayberry Jr. are in the lineup on April 5, as the Phils face Pittsburgh lefty Erik Bedard.
On to the makeup of the bench.
The locks: Schneider, Jim Thome, Laynce Nix and (for now) Pete Orr. Orr, who is starting at shortstop today, is the only middle infielder left in camp that won't be in the Opening Day lineup (Rollins, Galvis).
The candidates for the last two bench spots: outfielders Juan Pierre, Scott Podsednik and Lou Montanez, corner infielder Hector Luna and utility man Tim Kennelly.
Since they have the most major league experience, Pierre and Podsednik jump out as the two obvious players left to fill out the roster. But, if Wigginton and Mayberry figure to start more often than not in the absence of Howard, the Phils would play most games without a right-handed bat on the bench (both Pierre and Podsednik are left-handed hitters).
Because of that, the right-handed hitting Montanez and/or Luna could edge out either Podsednik or Pierre.
Here is one man's guess of the makeup of the Opening Day, 25-man roster:
1B Ty Wigginton
2B Freddy Galvis
SS Jimmy Rollins
3B Placido Polanco
C Carlos Ruiz
CF Shane Victorino
LF John Mayberry Jr.
RF Hunter Pence
1B Jim Thome (LH)
OF/1B Laynce Nix (LH)
C Brian Schneider (LH)
INF Pete Orr (LH)
OF Juan Pierre (LH)
OF Lou Montanez (RH)
RHP Roy Halladay
LHP Cliff Lee
LHP Cole Hamels
RHP Vance Worley
RHP Jonathan Papelbon
RHP Chad Qualls
LHP Antonio Bastardo
RHP Mike Stutes
RHP Kyle Kendrick
RHP Jose Contreras
RHP Joe Blanton
The first day the Phils need a fifth starter is Sunday, April 15. So figure a swap for a bench player (Montanez) for a reliever (Herndon) that day.
*As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports pointed out this morning, the Podsednik vs. Pierre battle could be solved according to the opt-out dates for their minor-league contracts. Since Pierre can opt out earlier (March 31 vs. Podsednik's June 1), the Phils simply have more time to make a decision on Podsednik.
Thus, Pierre on the projected Opening Day roster.
** As Matt Gelb of the Inquirer just mentioned via his twitter account (@KingKoala), there's also a pretty good chance that a player not currently in camp makes it onto the Phillies Opening Day roster. I penciled in Orr as the utility infielder only by default; there aren't any other middle infielders in camp.
The Phils are almost certainly looking for infield help, and a right-handed hitting, veteran infielder capable of playing the middle infield positions (hi, Ryan Theriot) would almost make too much sense.