Phillies 9, Braves 0: Brock Stassi shines -- so what else is new?

Phillies 9, Braves 0: Brock Stassi shines -- so what else is new?

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Brock Stassi's campaign to make the Phillies' opening day roster gained more steam on Tuesday.

In the very role that he is auditioning for, one that would have him come off the bench to offer some good glove work at first base and some timely hitting, Stassi did a little of both in the Phillies' 9-0 win over the Atlanta Braves at Spectrum Field.

The 27-year-old career minor-leaguer replaced Tommy Joseph in the field in the third inning and made two nice defensive plays and added two more hits, including a two-run home run. The homer was Stassi's fifth of the spring, moving him into a tie for the most in the majors this exhibition season.

"I think everybody likes him," manager Pete Mackanin said. "You have to like him. Not only has he had a good spring offensively, but the at-bats he gives us are quality at-bats versus righties and lefties. And he's a well-above-average defender. He's fun to watch play."

Stassi is 13 for 31 (.419) for the spring. He is bidding to win a spot on the Phillies' bench as a backup first baseman/outfielder.

Eick is sharp
Jerad Eickhoff, who lines up to start the second game of the regular season, was sharp and economical in his fourth start of the spring. He needed just 62 pitches to get through five shutout innings. He gave up three hits, a walk and struck out five. Eickhoff was so economical with his pitch count that he threw 13 pitches in the bullpen after the outing to stretch his total to 75.

Benoit ramping up
The Phillies wanted to improve their bullpen in the offseason. They hope the additions of veterans Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit will do that. 

Neshek is pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Phillies, meanwhile, have eased the 39-year-old Benoit into action. He made just his second appearance Tuesday and was rusty. He walked a batter and hit two others, but did not allow a run.

Benoit showed plenty of arm strength, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth by striking out Emilio Bonifacio on a 95-mph fastball.

"He threw the ball hard," Mackanin said. "I was surprised. He had great velocity. He was rusty, but I liked what I saw coming out of his hand."

Williams improving
Plate discipline was a big problem for prospect Nick Williams at Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. He drew just two walks over his final 66 games and had a woeful .236 on-base percentage over that span.

Williams, who will open back at Triple-A this season, is focusing on improving that aspect of his game this spring, and there have been signs of progress. He drew two walks on Tuesday and now has four in 29 plate appearances.

"Matt Stairs has been working on his approach, to soften his approach instead of jumping out after the ball," Mackanin said. "He seems to be showing improvement."

Up next
The Phillies play the Yankees in Tampa on Wednesday night. The team will get a look at utility man Chris Coghlan at second base in that game. Coghlan is bidding to make the team as a non-roster player.

Clay Buchholz will start on the mound against Michael Pineda.

Here is the posted lineup for the game, though there surely will be some changes after Joseph was hit on the left hand (see story) by a pitch Tuesday:

Chris Coghlan, 2B
Freddy Galvis, SS
Howie Kendrick, LF
Maikel Franco, 3B
Michael Saunders, RF
Tommy Joseph, 1B
Cameron Rupp, C
Aaron Altherr, CF
Andrew Knapp, DH

Yankees 3, Phillies 2: Jeremy Hellickson shines; big roster meeting on deck

Yankees 3, Phillies 2: Jeremy Hellickson shines; big roster meeting on deck

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TAMPA, Fla. -- With his second straight opening day start coming into focus, Jeremy Hellickson delivered his best outing of the spring on Friday.

The right-hander, two weeks shy of his 30th birthday, held the New York Yankees to five hits and a run over 6 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out three.

Hellickson was remarkably economical with his pitches, throwing just 75.

"I'll take that any time," he said.

So would Pete Mackanin.

"He was great," the manager said.

Hellickson will have one more tune-up -- Wednesday -- before his opening day start April 3 in Cincinnati.

"I'm ready," he said.

And that about says it all.

The game
The Phillies lost, 3-2, when reliever Michael Mariot gave up three hits and two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Tommy Joseph had a pair of hits, including the Phils' only extra-base hit, a double.

Freddy Galvis made a couple of nice plays in the field.

"He just shines out there," Mackanin said.

Joseph, the Phillies' first baseman, was involved in a humorous play in the fifth inning. Hellickson made a pickoff attempt on Aaron Hicks at first base. Hicks dived back toward the base but seemed to get stuck in the infield dirt and came up about a foot short of the bag. Joseph, sensing Hicks would easily beat the throw, didn't immediately notice that Hicks was grounded short of the bag and by the time he did, Hicks was able to scurry to the bag.

As fate would have it, the next two batters hit tough ground balls to Joseph's right and he made close plays at second both times. He fired what looked like a 90 mph fastball at shortstop Galvis on the first one. Galvis even seemed shocked how quickly the ball got on him.

"We laughed about the pickoff play," Hellickson said. "But he made two really good plays after that. I told him he totally redeemed himself. That was funny, though."

Saunders OK
Michael Saunders was hit on the right hand by a pitch in the fifth inning. He left the game for precautionary reasons, but was fine. Just a bruise.

"Glancing blow," Mackanin said.

Roster ruminations
The Phillies leave Florida in a week. They have thinned their roster several times and did so again on Friday, optioning pitcher Jake Thompson and outfielder Tyler Goeddel to the minors and reassigning three others (see story).

An even clearer picture of the roster will begin to emerge Sunday as several non-roster players can opt out of their contracts if they are not added to the 40-man roster. That list includes catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday, reliever Sean Burnett and outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Mackanin said the team would have a personnel meeting on Sunday.

"By Monday we should have some more news," he said.

Still unsettled are the bench and bullpen. Typically the team would have five men on the bench and seven in the bullpen, but Mackanin said the possibility of a four-man bench and an eight-man bullpen would be discussed.

"I don't want to do that, especially in the National League, but we're talking about it," he said.

The Phillies have a tight 40-man roster, and that could help Andrew Knapp's chances of making the club as a backup catcher/first baseman. He is already on the 40-man roster. Even if Knapp makes it, the Phils could bring along Hanigan or Holaday as a third catcher.

"That's a possibility," Mackanin said. "We discussed it at the last meeting. We're going to discuss it again on Sunday.

"We're trying to come up with the best plan for when we break, and a lot of it has to do with the non-roster players. If we make a move, someone has to come off (the 40-man roster) and that's an issue."

Up next
The Phillies travel to Fort Myers on Saturday to play the Red Sox. The game shapes up as another audition for a spot in the Phillies' bullpen as Alec Asher, Adam Morgan and Joely Rodriguez are the scheduled pitchers.

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With a week to go before they leave Florida, the Phillies made several roster moves on Friday morning.

Outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who spent all of last season in the majors, was optioned to the minor leagues.

Pitcher Jake Thompson, who made 10 starts in the majors for the Phillies last season, was also optioned to the minors. He is expected to open the season in the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Goeddel, 24, joined the Phillies organization in December 2015 after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He had originally been a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must spend an entire season in the majors or be exposed to waivers and offered back to their original club. The Phillies kept Goeddel all of last season, fully securing his rights, but he received only 213 at-bats and hit just .192 with four homers and 16 RBIs.

The news on Goeddel was not completely surprising. The wintertime additions of outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders had made Goeddel a long shot to make the team.

"I knew going into camp I was going to have to earn my spot," he said. "There's a lot of guys in here that have been playing well. Whatever happened, happened."

Goeddel needs to recoup some at-bats in the minor leagues. The question is: where? The Phillies have three top outfield prospects -- Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens -- who will require regular playing time at Triple-A. It's possible that Goeddel could open the season at Double-A.

Team officials discussed that possibility with him.

"They want me to get more at-bats," Goeddel said. "That's the main thing. Only getting 200 in your age-23 season is not enough.

"They said there's a chance I'm at Reading. I'm not too happy about that but you can't control it. That's where their most openings are and most consistent playing time.

"I want to play every day. It was tough last year playing sparingly. Getting at-bats is going to be great. Obviously, I wish it was up here. But at the end of the day, you can't control it."

Goeddel is still on the 40-man roster and as long as he stays on it can come back to the majors quite easily if a need arises.

"They said that," Goeddel said. "Last year (pitcher Alec) Asher started at Double-A and was called up. They said that in there. They just want me to get at-bats. That was their main thing."

Thompson could be one of the first to return to the majors if a need arises in the starting rotation.

The 23-year-old right-hander was one of five prospects that the Phillies acquired from Texas for Cole Hamels in July 2015. He went 11-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts at Triple-A last season and 3-6 with a 5.70 ERA with the big club.

The Phils also reassigned pitcher Dalier Hinojosa, catcher Logan Moore and infielder Hector Gomez to minor-league camp.