Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted that whittling the roster down to 25 guys for opening day was less stressful than it’s been in the past.
After all, Amaro doesn’t have to worry about who will play first base or second base.
“It was certainly less stressful,” Amaro said. “It’s nice to have your No. 3 and 4 hitters there to pencil in. Last year we have Jimmy Rollins hitting third and (Hunter) Pence hitting fourth. It’s a little different and it puts the guys in the right spot. Any time you take those guys out of the lineup it puts a lot of pressure on some guys that might not be ready to handle it.”
No doubt it’s much easier for manager Charlie Manuel to write in Howard’s and Utley’s names into the middle of the batting order. With Jimmy Rollins back at shortstop, Michael Young set to hold down third base as well as Dom Brown’s emergence and the acquisition of centerfielder Ben Revere, the core of the roster wasn’t difficult to put together.
Simply, it was matter of fitting in the pieces around those guys.
“The core guys on our roster allow us to do that,” the GM said, noting that there were 15 new players on the roster this season.
With Carlos Ruiz serving a 25-game suspension to begin the season, Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero will start the year behind the plate. Kratz figures to get the brunt of the starting assignments, but Quintero, who beat out Steven Lerud for the backup gig, will get his share of reps, too.
Amaro said he went with Quintero over Lerud because of experience and defense.
For the bench, the Phillies will have Freddy Galvis as the main defensive utility man with Kevin Frandsen back to play third and second. Laynce Nix and John Mayberry likely will split time in one of the corner outfield spots and Rule 5 draft pick Ender Inciarte will be on the 25-man roster.
Inciarte must remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season or the Phillies will be forced to place him on waivers before offering him back to the Diamondbacks.
“He’s young and he might be a little overmatched offensively, but defense is important to us,” Amaro said. “He has an instinct in the outfield that in my mind is a little like Galvis in the infield. He’s aggressive and he has good routes and he throws well.”
The Phillies will start the season with 12 pitchers. Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan will be the starters with Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams handling the eighth and ninth innings. Phillippe Aumont made the team after a strong spring and will pair with veteran Chad Durbin as the middle innings right-handers.
Meanwhile, in a rarity for the Phillies, the team will carry three lefty relievers to start the season with Antonio Bastardo, Raul Valdes and Jeremy Horst.
“Horst and Valdes really pitched pretty consistently all spring,” Amaro said. “Having Valdes with Chad Durbin from the right side, both of whom have some length, gives us some balance. I kind of like having three lefties. The guys that we kept did a really good job this spring.”
The last handful of cuts came when the team announced that Lerud, infielder Pete Orr and righty Zach Minor had been reassigned to the minor leagues, reliever Mike Stutes had been optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley and Delmon Young was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Amaro said Young will play the outfield for the first time in his rehab games in Clearwater on April 2.
Stutes, a solid piece in the bullpen for the Phillies in 2011, needs time to regain his form after missing most of last season because of a shoulder injury, Amaro said.
“We don’t forget what he did for us two years ago,” Amaro said. “He needs to get back and get his reps. He hasn’t pitched for nearly a year so there needs to be some consistency.”
The season opens in Atlanta on April 1 when Hamels will face up against Tim Hudson.
The opening-day roster:
Starting pitchers (5)
Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, John Lannan, Cliff Lee
Mike Adams, Phillippe Aumont, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst, Jonathan Papelbon, Raul Valdes
Erik Kratz, Humberto Quintero
Kevin Frandsen, Freddy Galvis, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Michael Young
Domonic Brown, Ender Inciarte, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix, Ben Revere