It's shaping up to be a drama-less spring for the Phillies.
After winning back-to-back National League pennants and retaining the core of their roster, few jobs will be up for grabs when the Phillies begin working out at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. Every position in the starting lineup and each spot on the bench already has been filled.
If not for injuries, the Phillies wouldn't have any decisions at all.
Throughout the spring, questions will linger about the opening-day readiness of closer Brad Lidge, lefty reliever J.C. Romero and left-hander Jamie Moyer, each of whom underwent surgery (more than one surgery, in some cases) during the offseason. If they're not going to be available by the start of the season, it will open opportunities for several in-house candidates, including relievers Antonio Bastardo and Scott Mathieson and fifth-starter option Kyle Kendrick.
"If we knew that J.C. and Brad and Jamie were going to be 100 percent, that would be my druthers right out of the chute," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "So, obviously, I wish our health was a little bit better."
Otherwise, everything figures to run smoothly in Clearwater, Fla.
New ace pitcher Roy Halladay and new third baseman Placido Polanco were the biggest offseason additions. But the Phillies also overhauled their bench and made changes to the bullpen, two areas that were weaknesses down the stretch and in the playoffs last season.
Gone are pinch hitter Matt Stairs, utility infielder Eric Bruntlett and backup catcher Paul Bako, replaced by Ross Gload, Juan Castro and Brian Schneider, respectively. Veteran right-handers Danys Baez and Jose Contreras were added to the bullpen, filling the voids left by Chan Ho Park and Brett Myers.
And if Lidge, Romero and Moyer are healthy, the Phillies will have only one job opening -- the final spot in the bullpen. Bastardo, a left-hander who had a strong season in the Dominican winter league, is a leading candidate to claim the job with a good spring. But he'll have competition from fellow lefties Sergio Escalona and Mike Zagurski and right-handers Mathieson and David Herndon, who was selected by the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft.
"We looked to try to improve in a couple different areas," Amaro said. "I think we added some depth in our bench, a quality top-of-the-rotation starter (Halladay). Overall, I think our club, if I look at it on paper, I think our club is as good as it was last year. And, hopefully, it'll play better."
Bright House Field, Clearwater, Fla. The Phillies have trained in Clearwater since 1948, although this is just their seventh year at Bright House Field. The ballpark's must-see feature: a thatched-roof Tiki bar beyond the left field fence.
TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE
RHP Kyle Kendrick spent most of last season in the minors after winning 21 games in 2007-08, but the Phillies saw improvement in his secondary pitches after he was recalled last September. Now, Kendrick has a chance to return to the rotation by winning the fifth starting job.
TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT
LHP Jamie Moyer had three surgeries in four months during the offseason, and although he's hopeful of being ready to make his first regular-season start, the Phillies are taking a more conservative approach. At age 47, Moyer is the oldest player in the majors. How will he bounce back after the injuries?
Charlie Manuel has emerged as one of the most successful managers in Phillies history. Only Manuel (2007-09) and Danny Ozark (1976-78) have led the franchise to three consecutive division crowns. Manuel, 66, has a 447-363 record in five seasons for the fifth-best winning percentage (.552) in Phillies history. Manuel's coaching staff, including pitching coach Rich Dubee and hitting coach Milt Thompson, remains intact from 2009.
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