What we know and need to know about Phillies

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Domonic Brown is showing his potential this spring.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Domonic Brown is showing his potential this spring.
Posted: March 13, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The first workout was 27 days ago and the first Grapefruit League game 17 days ago. As of Monday evening at 7:10, we were exactly 3 weeks from the first pitch of the 2013 season, slated for April 1 at Turner Field in Atlanta. It might not be the official halfway point of spring training, but it is half enough, so let's take a look at what camp has yielded thus far.

What we know

1) Domonic Brown will be a member of the 2013 Opening Day roster: Even if he had not established himself as the top performer in camp during the first few weeks of Grapefruit League play, Brown likely would have been headed for a spot in left- or rightfield thanks to a lack of other options. Still, the Phillies have to be thrilled that their onetime top prospect is playing like he has the potential to turn at least one of the corner outfield spots from a weakness into, at the very least, an area of less concern. In 14 games, Brown has a .523 on-base percentage with three home runs and two doubles in 37 at-bats. His knees look healthy, he is running well, and he is playing good defense. As long as he avoids injury and the Braves start a righty, he will be in the lineup on Opening Day.

2) Ryan Howard is in game shape: And whatever lingering concern there is about his surgically repaired Achilles' should be gone. The first baseman played in 14 straight games to start the spring and showed no ill effects. He has shown power (four home runs, three doubles in 39 at-bats) and is running as well as he will ever need to run. If the slugger struggles, it won't be because of his body.

3) Michael Young is a much better fielder than Ty Wigginton: It is still tough to tell how good his defense will be at third base, but it should definitely be evaluated with the context that Wigginton started 21 games at the position for the Phillies last season.

4) Freddy Galvis seems likely to land a roster spot on the bench: Charlie Manuel wants him there, and Yuniesky Betancourt doesn't offer anything that Galvis does not. If Galvis never develops into a solid major league hitter, it won't be because he spent 2013 in the majors instead of the minors.

What we need to learn

1) How badly do the Phillies want to see Darin Ruf against major league pitching on an everyday basis? Because their desire will need to burn so bad that it hurts, if Ruf is going to end up on the Opening Day roster. That's not to belittle his attempt at converting from first base to leftfield. He runs at least as well as Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez and can catch what he gets to, but he is still prone to the kind of mistakes that can lose games all by themselves. The only way that will go away is with regular work, and unless the Phillies think he will hit well enough to balance out whatever defensive lapses come with regular work at the major league level, then they are better off starting him in the minors and waiting to see how the Delmon Young experiment plays out.

2) When will the Delmon Young experiment begin? If he does not suffer any setbacks in his surgically repaired ankle, Young could be on the field between mid- and late-April. But the Phillies say they really do not know when, exactly, to expect their rightfielder.

3) Is a combination of John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix enough to fill a corner outfield spot in Young's absence? This will be the third straight season that the Phillies enter with at least one glaring question mark at corner outfield. In 2011, they tried Ben Francisco and Mayberry before trading for Hunter Pence. In 2012, they tried, well, everybody before giving up on the season. This year, Nix and Mayberry appear to be the only feasible lefty/righty combination to fill a spot opposite Brown while Young is on the mend.

4) What will the front of the bullpen look like? The Phillies seem to know what they want their bullpen to look like, but they also seem to genuinely feel that the players whom they favored at the start of spring training actually have won their jobs by the end of it. Jeremy Horst will get every benefit of the doubt after his solid 2012, and he showed signs of finding his groove in his last outing. Raul Valdes has looked like the same guy who the Phillies were pleasantly surprised by last season. The big competition could feature righties Mike Stutes and Phillippe Aumont, with Justin De Fratus attempting to finish the spring strong and make the decision tough. The Phillies love Aumont's stuff, but he needs to be throwing strikes on a consistent basis for the final couple weeks of spring in order to win their confidence. Stutes was solid in 2011 and had a nice outing in his last appearance. If he looks like he did at the end of spring training in 2011, he will be tough to send to the minors.

The show resumes Tuesday.


On Twitter: @HighCheese

Blog: philly.com/HighCheese

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