Here's what we know about the Phillies' bullpen; Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell and Rheal Cormier are in. We now also know that Geoff Geary has been eliminated from consideration for a spot with the major league club after he was reassigned to minor league camp on Tuesday. That helps to clear up the picture a little, but not completely.
Terry Adams has been up and down at times this spring, but he is all but assured of a spot with the Phillies. That gives up four definite names to put on the roster and either two or three more spots to be decided. Charlie Manuel would like to start the year with 11 pitchers, but there is a definite temptation to carry 12. It may depend on how well stretched out the starters are through their final starts of the spring and how much work the bullpen figures to get early on.
So, who gets the final bullpen spots?
Ryan Madson figures to be on the roster somewhere. The question is whether he'll be in the bullpen or possibly, in the starting rotation. There is an outside chance that he could start at AAA and get himself completely stretched out before coming to the majors as a starter, possibly replacing Brett Myers should he continue to struggle. If Madson were to replace Myers, then it could be Myers working out of the bullpen. It's an idea that has been thrown around in the past and could come up again.
If either Madson or Myers is in the bullpen, that leaves potentially, just one spot. Aaron Fultz has been impressive this spring. The left-hander has a 2.08 ERA and has shown excellent control, walking just two in 8.2 innings while striking out seven. The Phillies have two left-handers, Wagner and Cormier, but wouldn't mind another. Wagner is the closer, giving them one lefty to work in key game situations prior to the ninth inning. Fultz could fill that role for the Phillies and the way he's pitched this spring, it's very likely that he'll find a job in Philadelphia.
Keep an eye on the Brett Myers situation. If he continues to struggle, the Phillies may be forced into making a move to take him out of the rotation. It's possible that they would have him pitch at AAA rather than out of the bullpen, pushing Madson into a starting job. Remember too, that the Phillies don't want Gavin Floyd to be pitching in the majors for too long. They prefer to give him more seasoning at Scranton, so if Vicente Padilla doesn't rebound from his elbow tendinitis, the Phillies could go with Madson in Padilla's place rather than Floyd. Having a number of potential relievers to fill Madson's spot would figure into the equation there.
That leaves Amaury Telemaco, Pedro Liriano and Mike Bacsik fighting for a spot. Bacsik looked good early, but has struggled since. He's a left-hander and the Phillies won't add two more lefties, so he's likely out of the mix. He may head for a starting job with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. Liriano could be headed to Scranton as well and he too could pitch in the starting rotation.
So, what to do with Amaury Telemaco? If the Phillies carry 12 pitchers then Telemaco likely makes the club. If they go with 11 then he and Fultz are locked in a battle for the final spot. Fultz being a lefty could give him an edge, but the Phillies like Telemaco and think he can do better pitching in long relief than Fultz may be suited to do. Telemaco has had his ups and downs this spring, but has generally pitched well, posting a 3.65 ERA. The decision on whether to go with Telemaco or Fultz could be an interesting one. Their battle could also push Manuel into considering 12 pitchers more carefully, which would have ripple effects on the utility players fighting for a spot with the club.
One consideration in how many pitchers to carry is that generally, teams have a number of off days early in the season. The Phillies have just three off days in April once the season starts on the fourth. That's not quite as many as teams sometimes have, so 12 pitchers right out of the gate may make a little more sense. On the other hand is the fact that pitching coach Rich Dubee has stressed to his pitchers that they need to be ready to throw 100 pitches right from opening day. In fact, the plan is for the starters to throw 100 pitchers at least once in spring training.
Needless to say, the battle for roster spots in the bullpen will be interesting and is likely to come down to the final days of camp.