Young Phils relievers have shot at cracking 'pen

Young Phils relievers have shot at cracking 'pen

Young Phils relievers have shot at cracking 'pen
PHILADELPHIA -- Before Phillies pitchers and catchers hold their first workout in Clearwater, Fla., on Feb. 14, most of the spots on the Opening Day roster will be set.

There is uncertainty in right field, where Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown are the favorites to earn playing time. There are two bench jobs open: the fifth outfielder and the utility infielder, which could be a competition between Rule 5 Draft pick Michael Martinez and Delwyn Young. There are two bullpen jobs available, if the Phillies carry 12 pitchers as they have in the past.

The bullpen competition could be interesting.

There are plenty of candidates. Some certainly have better chances than others, but there are several young pitchers who have the opportunity to open eyes of the Phillies' front office and coaching staff before likely opening the season in the Minor Leagues. Four of those pitchers -- right-handers Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer, Michael Stutes and Chris Kissock -- were in Philadelphia this week for a two-day seminar at Citizens Bank Park.

The seminar helps Phillies prospects learn about life in the big leagues before they get there.

De Fratus, Schwimer and Stutes will be in big league camp Feb. 14. Kissock will be in Minor League camp, which means he has a little longer to go. But each pitcher had strong 2010 seasons, and the Phillies think highly of them.

De Fratus is on the 40-man roster and would seem to have the best chance of the four to make the team out of Spring Training. He went 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA and 21 saves in 49 appearances with Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. He is a hard thrower, who adjusted well to his first full season in the bullpen.

"I have an opportunity," De Fratus said. "It's up to me to take advantage of it in Spring Training to see what kind of position I can put myself in. I've said it before, if I don't make the team out of camp, that'll be fine. Then I just want to go down to the Minor Leagues and do what I have to do to make myself a part of this team."

Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez and J.C. Romero have secured jobs coming into camp. That leaves Antonio Bastardo, David Herndon, Scott Mathieson, Drew Carpenter, Vance Worley, Mike Zagurski, Eddie Bonine, Dan Meyer, De Fratus and others as candidates for the remaining two spots.

Schwimer and Stutes are non-roster invitees to camp. Schwimer went 7-5 with a 2.85 ERA in 48 games at Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Stutes went 7-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 53 appearances at the same two stops. Kissock went a combined 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 47 appearances with Clearwater and Reading.

"I'm just trying to get a job here, whenever, wherever," Kissock said. "The Phillies are always going to put together a good team, right? You've got to be ready for that. This week I'm getting to see how important winning is."

If they don't make the team out of camp, the young relievers could certainly put themselves in good position to be called up during the season or enter 2012 as favorites to make the team.

That is because there could be plenty of turnover following the 2011 season. Madson, Baez and Romero will be free agents. Lidge could be, too. The Phillies have a 2012 club option worth $12.5 million, and, depending on the season Lidge has, they could take the $1.5 million buyout instead. (They also could work out a new deal paying him less than $12.5 million.)

"This is a great place to be a pitcher," Schwimer said. "The coaches are great to work with. I really don't have control over the current situation. Who knows? They could re-sign Lidge. They could re-sign everybody. It doesn't matter. I really believe that as long as you pitch well, you'll find a spot."

"It's a game based on opportunity," Stutes said. "By getting invited to big league camp, I'm getting an opportunity. So hopefully I can take advantage of it."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.