With Phillies pitchers and catchers now in Clearwater for Spring Training, we had the chance to talk with David Murphy, who covers the Phillies for the Philadelphia Daily News.
Question: How would you handicap the Phillies fifth starter competition?
David Murphy: I think JA Happ is the slight favorite. But really I think that any of the four can play himself into that role, though I would have doubts about Carrasco’s chances. I just think the Phillies want to see him down in AAA for another season, or at least a half season.
Chan-Ho Park pitched well last year, and quit the South Korean team to concentrate on winning a spot. The Phillies were sincere about letting him compete for a spot, but with Romero suspended, he is probably needed in the pen. If he proves he’s the most capable, they’ll put him in the rotation, but if it’s even, they’ll go to Happ or Kendrick.
Q: Do you think Jason Donald has a shot to make the team?
DM: I do. He’s been down here working out at second and third, which he hasn’t done except in the Arizona Fall League. It comes down to whether they can trust him in the field. I wouldn’t say he’s likely to make it, but the Phillies are taking him seriously at this point.
Q: How is Chase Utley progressing?
DM: He took grounders yesterday, and it sounds like he’ll start swinging in the near future, maybe two weeks or so. I think the biggest news is that there is no news. Everyone keeps waiting for a set-back. Opening Day is as realistic as it was a month ago.
Q: What did you make of Ryan Howard’s contract extension?
DM: It’s not as newsworthy as some made it out to be, they just avoided arbitration for three years. It was basically an insurance policy against Howard winning arbitration this year. If Howard had won this year for $18 million, then over the whole deal, they definately saved some money.
Q: Your thoughts on Ruben Amaro’s first offseason?
DM: I thought it went about as well as could be expected. It was a short offseason. Ruben was new, had to fill a staff, and they had so many arbitration guys. I think he did a real good job. Ultimately though, it will probably be judged based on how well Raul Ibanez does.
Q: Are the Phillies better prepared to get contributions from minor leaguers than in year’s past?
DM: While I don’t think the farm system is at a level they would like just yet, they can expect contributions a lot more than in year’s past. Last year, minor league depth was one of the glaring weaknesses of the organization. Beyond Donald and Carrasco, they still are a little short on prospects who are big league ready, but they did improve their depth significantly.
Q: Your thoughts on the Mets?
DM: They clearly tailored their offseason around the Phillies. Tim Redding, who beat the Phils a few times last year, resignign Oliver Perez, who beat the Phillies too, and getting a top notch closer. They still have concerns at second base and maybe left field. They’re better than they were last year but I still think the Phillies are better built for the long haul.