Phillies focus on defense, versatility in finalizing roster
GM Amaro Jr. sacrifices power for athleticism to fill out veteran team
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies stressed versatility when finalizing their Opening Day roster on Saturday, with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. providing manager Ryne Sandberg flexibility on the bench and in the bullpen.
The Phillies' 25-man roster includes four starting pitchers, eight relievers, eight regular position players and a five-man bench. The club doesn't need a fifth starter until April 13, so the organization decided to carry an additional arm in the bullpen.
Pitchers: Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Brad Lincoln, B.J. Rosenberg, Justin De Fratus, Jeff Manship, Mario Hollands.
Catchers: Carlos Ruiz, Wil Nieves.
Infielders: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cody Asche, Jayson Nix, Cesar Hernandez.
Outfielders: Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, Marlon Byrd, John Mayberry Jr., Tony Gwynn Jr.
With an aging roster, the Phillies put a premium on players who can fill multiple roles and play different positions. Sandberg said he wants to give more breathers to the veterans during the season than in previous years, so a versatile bench was a necessity.
"I think some of it has to do with the fact that we have some players that are a little older, that Ryno is going to give them probably a little more blows, so we're going to have to have guys that can go out there and play -- particularly defensively -- catch the baseball and be able to do those things that are important for us to win baseball games," Amaro said. "In the past, we had guys that were playing 162 games all the time. But we don't have that club anymore."
Still, Howard said he would like to play as often as possible.
"For me, I want to try to be out there and play every single day," Howard said. "Ryno has a game plan that he's going to try to go with, and when he sees that there's opportunities to try to get us days off, then he's going to try and get us a day off. But my mindset and [Chase Utley]'s mindset, everybody's mindset here is you're showing up ready to play every day."
Sandberg has plenty of options on the bench. Gwynn, who came to camp as a non-roster invitee, is a solid defender at each outfield position. Nix, acquired from the Rays on Friday, and Hernandez are capable of moving around the infield. Mayberry provides some power, though that is not a strength with this group.
"We sacrificed some power and such for some athleticism there," Amaro said. "Mayberry has some power off the bench and I think Nix can pop one from time to time. Not power guys so to speak, but with the makeup and the constitution of our club, I thought it was more important to make sure that we cover the defense and the athleticism and those sorts of things -- the versatility. We put ourselves in a position to have flexibility."
Sandberg said he likes the combination of bench players.
"Some youth there, but athletic guys, versatile guys, good options for mixing and matching in lineups as far as spot starts, but also guys that can move around on defense and double switches," Sandberg said.
Hollands was by far the biggest surprise to make the club. The left-hander came to Spring Training as a non-roster player and had never pitched above Triple-A, but he was impressive throughout camp and can fill a variety of roles.
"Hollands did a heck of a job," Sandberg said. "He was an unsung hero going into Spring Training, and now coming out deserving the spot. He's a guy that fits in real nice in the bullpen as a left-handed guy."
Like Hollands, Manship was in camp as a non-roster invitee and can pitch multiple innings. Amaro said having relievers who can do a variety of things "is a bit of premium in this day and age."
In order to add Gwynn, Hollands and Manship to the 40-man roster, the Phillies transferred pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to the 60-day disabled list, which opened a third spot on the 40-man roster. In other roster moves, infielder Reid Brignac and right-hander Shawn Camp were reassigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
With the roster set and Opening Day on Monday, what are the Phillies' goals for 2014?
"Win the National League East," Amaro said.