Sep 12, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Aaron Cook (35) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Roster Spots Up For Grabs As Phillies Inch Closer To Spring Training

All of the big moves have been made by Ruben Amaro Jr. and co., but a lot of questions remain with Spring training just over a month away.

- Is this really it for the Phillies outfield?

- Will someone step up in the back end of the rotation?

- Will anyone play a full season?

No one knows how the injury bug will play out without a crystal ball, but figuring out what the 25 man roster will look like on opening day is still anybody’s guess at this point. Sure, the usual suspects of Utley, Halladay, Howard and co. are locks barring health concerns (knocking on wood furiously), but there are plenty of spots open for the has-been and prospect alike to grab onto.  There are several interesting players heading into camp that may just become house hold names come April.

1. CF Ender Inciarte

Inciarte will try to follow in the grand old Phillies tradition of Rule 5 picks making the big club. Without explaining too much of the details surrounding this bizarre baseball procedure, Ender must remain on the Phillies for the duration of 2013 or be returned to his old club. There will be no seasoning in the minors if the Phils want to keep the speedy outfielder around. This gives him a leg up over non roster invitees to make it to Philly, but he could wind up being another Michael Martinez. Of course, the Phillies are hoping he’s the next Shane Victorino, and plays his way into a starting job. Best case scenario; Inciarte is a young Endy Chavez who provides depth on the bench with some late inning speed and defense.

Verdict: Don’t go rushing to buy your Ender Inciarte jerseys just yet.

2. RHP Kyle Simon

Kyle Simon enters Spring Training to fill the roster spot of “Guy who pitches his way into the Bullpen”. Most fans only know Simon as the guy that was traded for Jim Thome, unless they read Bob Brookover’s profile on the young righty. Here’s what we know about him. He’s tall (6′ 5”), he’s throws sidearm which is always fun, and he’s got a mustache that strikes fear in the hearts of opposing batters. Whether all that all translates into big league success is the million dollar question. Just having the chance to spend time with the Phillies core of aces should help Simon refine his repertoire. He has a lot of competition with so many young arms vying for spots in the pen, but don’t be shocked to see this mustachioed side arm throwin’ pitcher in Philly at some point in 2013.

3. C Humberto Quintero

Quintero has the chance to become the latest Phillies backup catcher to hit his way into a cult following among fans. The only reason the veteran catcher is in camp to begin with is thanks to Carlos Ruiz’s suspension. With Chooch out, Quintero and Eric Kratz will be fighting it out for playing time. While Kratz has the upper hand with the stick and familiarity, Quintero brings superb defense. His caught stealing percentage of 34.7 was 5th best in the AL last year. Granted, it’s a small sample size but if Kratz goes into a slump, don’t be surprised to see Charlie stick Humberto out there.

“Phillies fans will want to see Ruf circle the bases” Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

4. OF/1B Darin Ruf

Ruf has received the most attention of nearly any Phillie this off-season. After hitting as many home runs as he did in the minors, the attention is warranted. Phillies nation has naturally started salivating at the thought of Ruf providing power protection behind Ryan Howard, but his big league success isn’t a forgone conclusion. If management thought Ruf was a sure thing Delmon Young would not be on the roster. Ruf’s September audition was encouraging, but 37 at bats is hardly revealing. Not to mention he has barely had a full season playing in the outfield. Darin will have to continue to consistently display the kind of raw power he put out in 2012 to earn a spot in the Phillies outfield. One thing is certain, if he does win the left field job Ben Revere will have to cover a lot of ground.

5. RHP Aaron Cook

The 33 year old veteran pitcher may be on his last go round heading into camp with the Phils. After enjoying a long tenure pitching in the unfriendly confines of Coors Field, Cook spent a forgettable season in Boston last year. Phillies fans will remember Cook in the 2009 NLDS, where they knocked him out after 5 innings on their way to victory and the series. Cook hasn’t been the same pitcher since then, posting an ERA + below 100 for 3 consecutive seasons. I”m all for competition, but I don’t know if Cook has enough left in the tank to push John Lannan or Kyle Kendrick. His signing was most likely to fill out the LHV Iron Pigs rotation, but one sore arm in march could put Cook into the Phillies rotation. Let’s just hope he can pitch more like his all-star 2008 season.

More position battles are sure to take shape as spring training opens up. The Phillies may not have solved all of there lingering questions this off-season, but playing actual games has a funny way of sorting everything out.

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