Clearly, Brown does not have anything left to prove. He has been solid on defense, spectacular at the plate, and, again, is the only logical option for opening up the season in left or rightfield. Holding him back from the road trip was just another nod in that direction.
Making the trip were John Mayberry and Laynce Nix, who figure to rotate in some fashion at the other corner outfield spot until Delmon Young returns, and Darin Ruf, who appears to have found his swing after a tough start but still needs to get more comfortable in the outfield and thus is likely headed to Triple A. Starting at Brown's natural position of rightfield was Pete Orr, who has played exactly one inning there in his big-league career.
"I'd say he's way out in front," Manuel said with the grin.
Forecasting the outcomes of the other two issues in camp is a bit more difficult. When he posted the pitching schedule for the next week, Rich Dubee left himself plenty of wiggle room with regard to the composition of his rotation for the first couple weeks of the season. Roy Halladay will start a minor league game on Saturday and then will start the Grapefruit League finale against the Blue Jays on Thursday. After that, Halladay's fifth day would fall on April 2, which is an off day before the final two games of the Phillies' season-opening series in Atlanta. If the Phillies think Halladay is ready, they could start him with an extra day of rest on April 3 against the Braves, then proceed with Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick, both with an extra day's rest, and John Lannan with 2 extra days' rest.
Dubee said Thursday that he thinks two starts is enough time for Halladay to get ready, and that the working plan is that he will start the second game in Atlanta.
"What's the risk?" Dubee said. "He threw 25 pitches last time out. Our other guys, their last game, they're only going to throw 50 probably. So that was his short haul."
But Dubee also will have the option of giving Halladay a little more time to rebuild his weight and strength and lengthen out his arm after his progression was disrupted by a stomach bug. Halladay could throw a simulated game April 2 in Atlanta (his fifth day), and then be ready to make his season debut against the Royals on April 7 on normal rest. He would then be followed by Lee, Kendrick and Lannan, all on normal rest, and then by the off day on April 11, the rotation would be in order and everybody would get an extra day of rest.
"We can do anything we want with our rotation right now," Dubee said.
Same goes for the bullpen, although Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Chad Durbin all appear to have spots sewn up. Jeremy Horst is also a pretty sure bet. Fellow lefty Raul Valdes has looked exactly like the pitcher the Phillies praised at the beginning of camp, and he would appear to fit nicely as a long man. Dubee insisted Thursday that the competition is not limited to righthanders Stutes and Aumont. But at least one of them is likely to fill a role that could see him called upon to face a righthanded hitter (or two or three) in high-leverage situations in the seventh inning.
The requirements in those situations: 1) Throw strikes; 2) Don't get frazzled; 3) Be durable enough to pitch back-to-back-to-back and at a moment's notice.
Dubee said he thinks Aumont and Stutes both are durable enough to handle whatever would be asked of them, although he also said Stutes profiles more as a multiple-innings, front-of-the-bullpen type. Aumont had a tough outing against Italy in his first WBC outing. He also started a recent appearance by walking two straight batters. When your responsibility is to retire one or two batters, often with men on base and/or a lefty warming in the 'pen, you can't afford walks.
If Aumont does not throw strikes consistently, the Phillies might not be comfortable taking him into the season.
In his last five appearances, Stutes has been impressive: one run with two walks and eight strikeouts in six innings. In Aumont's last two outings, he has walked two and hit a batter with two strikeouts in two innings. Then again, the Phillies could opt to start Valdes in the minors and keep both Stutes and Aumont.
In a week, we should have a clearer idea of the answers.