Almost Home …

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for contreras 01.jpgHola, amigos.

I’ve been blog-less since Friday morning because of a conversion to new blog software. But the conversion didn’t work as planned, which left me unable to post. I apologize for that. But we went back to the old software for the next 24 hours or so, which should allow me to post through tomorrow’s Grapefruit League finale at Bright House Field.

I want to mention a few things before the Zo Zone goes dark again:

The Phillies have not named a closer to replace Brad Lidge, but my guess is Jose Contreras gets the nod. Why? It’s just the feeling I get from being in camp the past few days. Rich Dubee also sounds like he wants to keep Madson in the eighth inning, where he has thrived. I asked Dubee yesterday if he thought Madson was better prepared to close this season than previous seasons.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “Ryan Madson is Ryan Madson. What did he do? Take a crash course in how to close? We’re in Spring Training here. … I think the game speeds up on him sometimes. He doesn’t get to the same comfort level. There’s a little anxiety there. The ninth inning is a little different than the eighth. There have been a solid eighth-inning guys that haven’t been able to pitch the ninth. One day they learn how to do it.”

Is now the time to give Madson another crack? He certainly wants the opportunity. He also has better stuff and is more durable than Contreras, whose workload has to be monitored more closely because of his age. But Contreras looked pretty comfortable in save situations last season, while Madson has a 4.84 ERA and 15 saves in 21 save opportunities as a closer the previous two seasons. That’s why I think the Phillies give Contreras a shot. If he proves he can’t handle it, Madson steps in. In the meantime, Madson remains one of the best setup men in baseball.

It sounds like Michael Martinez has made the team. Charlie Manuel absolutely raved about his versatility and defense today. That plays big for a National League bench player. It also plays big that he’s a Rule 5 Draft pick. You know the deal. He must remain on the 25-man roster the entire season or the Phillies risk losing him to the Nationals. It does the Phillies absolutely no harm to open the season with Martinez, knowing they can call up Pete Orr, Delwyn Young or Josh Barfield at a later date.

So who gets the final bench job, if Martinez has one?

Manuel mentioned today that Luis Castillo has missed quite a bit of time recently. That indicates to me they still have questions about him and haven’t made a decision. I still think he has the edge over Orr and Young, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they chose one of them instead. I think it’s relatively close.

And how will the bullpen look?

Dubee was adamant yesterday they haven’t finalized the bullpen. Jason Grilli or Michael Stutes or somebody else in the organization (not Matt Anderson) could make sense, if they’re seriously looking at other internal options. But in the end — if they don’t make a trade or claim somebody off waivers — I think the Phillies stick with the seven they have in camp: Contreras, Madson, J.C. Romero, Danys Baez, Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon and Antonio Bastardo. It would be very unusual – perhaps not unprecedented, but unusual – for a team to pick a player in Minor League camp to start the season in the big leagues. But the Phillies are in a different situation because they just lost a key pitcher late in camp and they have seen pitchers like Stutes, Grilli and others in Grapefruit League games, so it’s not like they haven’t seen them pitch at all.

So here’s my best guess at the 25-man roster:

Catchers: Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider.

Infielders: Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez and Luis Castillo.

Outfielders: Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr. and Ross Gload.

Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jose Contreras, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, Danys Baez, Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon and Antonio Bastardo.

*

After 45 days and 44 nights in Clearwater, I’m heading back to Philly tomorrow night. I requested some suggestions for TV shows to download on my iPod for Spring Training. (They help me get through cardio at the gym.) I chose three shows — Breaking Bad, Arrested Development and Weeds – and have enjoyed them all. But I must say I really enjoyed Breaking Bad. Great show.

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I’ve got a new Facebook page, where I’ll post stories, blogs, thoughts, etc. Check it out here. Follow me on Twitter.

6 Comments

Great reporting down there in Florida.

Don’t forget to bring your long sleeves and warm jacket, it’s still cold up here in the Philly area…

Go Phils, (this is the Phillies we’ll be watching in a couple of days isn’t it?)

Working on a post @ FightinPhillies.com right now on the ‘new look’ of the Phillies 2011.

I wonder if part of the reason for keeping Madson as the 8th inning set-up man is to minimize his saves total and closing experience this year, potentially deflating his price as a free agent closer this off-season. There’s no question that he’s been fantastic in the 8th inning but if keeping him there also saves the team 15% on a new contract with Scott Boras, all the better.

The Japanese have a very nice expression to show gratitude to people who have worked hard: O-TSUKARE-SAMA-DESHITA. Todd, thanks for your hard work

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