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Things to Look for as the Phillies Begin Workouts in Clearwater

MLB: FEB 28 Spring Training - University of Tampa at Phillies
Aaron Nola (elbow) threw his first official bullpen session of the spring on Wednesday. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Clearwater, FL, baseball begins this week.

The MLB winter has come to an end and the seven-and-a-half month journey begins, but it’s his been a long time since the last time there has been meaningful October baseball in Philadelphia.

The on-field preparation gets underway on this week.

Pitchers and catchers reported on Tuesday. The full squad workouts will begin at the Carpenter Complex on Friday.

There will be plenty to watch.

There are many new faces but many of the young-core of familiar faces, with the manager and coaching staff all returning.

Pete Mackanin and his coaches can pick up where they left off last year in Clearwater with all of the first-year firsts out of the way.

Aaron Nola will be watched closely by all. Nola was diagnosed last August with a low-grade sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and a flexor sprain in his forearm, he underwent platelet-rich plasma treatment in September and is already feeling close to 100 percent. Nola told reporters back in January that he will have no restrictions during spring training.

As for the rest of the pitching staff, it appears there is no shortage of competition for the five spots in the Phillies rotation. Along with Nola, the Phillies will feature a pair of veterans, Jeremy Hellickson and newcomer Clay Buchholz, plus Jared Eickhoff,

The battle for the fifth spot should be interesting with Vincent Velazquez the clear favorite, but don’t rule out young arms like Jake Thompson, and Zach Eflin.

The Phillies bullpen will have some competition too, the closer role seems up for grabs with incumbent Jeanmar Gomez trying to hold off free-agent signee Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris .  Veteran free-agent Pat Neshek should be in the mix for a late-inning role.

Some other questions to consider in Clearwater.

How does Tommy Joseph look in fielding drills and at first base? Will he play full-time against both right and left-handers?  Will any of the younger players like J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams or Jorge Alfaro have a shot to make the opening day roster?

While there are a few position battles, it appears there are plenty of roster spots up for grabs. There is a possibility for some platoon situations, most likely, the corner outfield spots but newcomers Howie Kendrick and Michael Sounders are the favorites to get most of the playing time and Phillies GM Matt Klentak is counting on them to produce.

“We were pretty open in our offseason about out goals,” Klentak explained on Philly Sports Talk on Comcast Sports Net. “One of the goals was to improve the offense, particularly the corner outfield where we did not receive a ton of production last year. We hope and we think we’ve addressed that both with Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders.”

As I said, there’s plenty to watch and I am looking forward to it.

Winter is over. Let’s get this thing going.

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