Of the many amazing features of Bright House Field is the legendary Tiki Bar in left field. With a general admission ticket, a fan can take in a game from the comfort of a bar stool that overlooks left field. Every once and a while, a bartender at this bar will ring a huge bell indicating a big tip, or maybe even a home run.
As we are now into the final two weeks of Spring Training, the number of pitchers to talk to out by the Tiki Bar is beginning to dwindle, since the Philadelphia Phillies optioned Jake Diekman and Justin DeFratus to minor league camp. Both pitchers could still see action in a Grapefruit League game, but these two men will not make the trip to Atlanta on April 1st. What that means for the Phillies is that there are now four relief pitchers competing for three spots in the Phillies ‘pen.
Raul Valdes has showed his ability to be a long reliever, with three scoreless innings worth of work Saturday against the Yankees. Should Valdes make the roster, it also gives the Phillies a left-handed long reliever, something that could be quite a commodity against left-handed heavy lineups. Not to mention the fact that when he comes into a game, Phillies fans can chant “Raaaaauuuuuuull!” like they once used to.
Fellow lefty Jeremy Horst has looked sharp as of late, after his 2012 performance did not carry over to Spring Training early on. In his past four games, Horst has not allowed a run in 5.1 innings pitched and has only allowed a single hit. It appears that he is getting back to the pitcher he was last year, in which he allowed 21 hits in 31.1 IP for an ERA of 1.15, all while recording 40 strikeouts after relieving fans of ever seeing Chad Qualls in a Phillies uniform again.
If both Valdes and Horst can make it in the pen, it will give the Phillies three left-handed relievers, which could be an interesting approach to their bullpen and allow Antonio Bastardo to only pitch situationally, rather than being leaned upon so much as he was last season.
After the week Valdes and Horst both had, I think it may be safe to say that Mike Stutes and Phillippe Aumont may be competing for the final spot in the bullpen. Stutes has turned it on as of late, lowering his ERA to 3.68 in 7.0 IP. Stutes could be a nice addition to the Phillies bullpen as he is proving his shoulder issues of last year are a thing of the past. He also has the ability to pitch multiple innings like Valdes and Durbin. In Stutes’ way is Phillippe Aumont, who we know has a big arm and could be a late-innings necessity should Mike Adams or Jonathan Papelbon need a day off. The Phillies are very high on Aumont, and having an arm of his caliber in the bullpen could be more important than another middle reliever that can work multiple innings like Stutes.
As we are in the latter portion of the spring schedule, this week will prove to be a huge one for Freddy Galvis and Yuniesky Betancourt. I’ve said all along that this will be the toughest decision the Phillies need to make. Both players are pretty much neck and neck for the final spot. Betancourt hasn’t been too awful in the field, and has been great at the plate, but the question comes in about his durability throughout the season. Galvis now has 8 extra base hits, but has an alarming number of strikeouts (15 in 50 ABs). We know that Galvis’ defense will be substantially better than Betancourt’s as we go through the season, but will he benefit from just being a back up player? Whatever the decision is, the Phillies need to make it this Sunday as Betancourt can opt-out from his Phillies contract.
Ender Inciarte is doing everything right as a Rule 5 draft pick. He has been outstanding defensively and can prove to be a late innings defensive replacement like it’s 2008 and our left fielder is Pat Burrell. He has seen increased regular playing time this week and will continue to do so for the remaining spring schedule. If he can show that he can hit somewhat regularly against big league pitching and play the corner outfield positions as well as he has been playing center field, it will be no surprise if the Phillies elect to add him to the 25 man roster.
This week, the Phillies will take on the Braves and Red Sox twice, as well as seeing the Orioles and Yankees again. Jimmy Rollins will return today to the team and play in a minor league game. Roy Halladay will hopefully bounce back from a stomach virus which caused him to only pitch 1 inning Sunday against the Orioles. He should get 2 more starts this spring in hopes that he can close out the Grapefruit League on a high note.
John Carullo is a Phillies contributer for Buzz on Broad and Self Proclaimed Spring Training Guru. If you are planning a trip to Clearwater, ask him your questions on twitter @jcarullo19. Feel free to ask him any of your other spring training questions as well!