We are back once again with this week's 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag.  Each week we take your questions and then answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill.  Tune in Tuesday afternoons to hear us answer your question.

Should we be worried about Andrew Painter?

As of Monday afternoon, the news is good.  Well, good for the future of Phillies top prospect Andrew Painter after shutting down his Spring throwing program on Wednesday after feeling something in his elbow.  The news would not be good for those who had their hearts set on Painter being in the Phillies starting rotation on Opening Day.

While as of this writing the Phillies had not issued a formal update, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com hears that there is "no serious concern": 

Based on conversations with people about Painter on Monday, there does not seem to be serious concern about his long-term health. But because he is a supremely talented 19-year-old, the Phillies want to handle Painter with care, meaning there is no reason to rush him back.

Translation: Forget about Opening Day.

Anytime there is an elbow injury, the words "Tommy John" immediately come into mind.  If indeed the issue is less serious, easing Painter in would arguably be helpful.

Painter could participate in extended Spring Training in Clearwater after some rest.  Then, the Phillies could take their time in giving him a minor league assignment and seeing what he has.  If all goes well, Painter could still join the Phillies later in the 2023 season.

After all, if Painter was pitching in the Phillies starting rotation from day one, would he be shut down towards the end due to an innings limit?

If the Phillies have the pieces to get through the first part of the season - likely in the form of Bailey Falter or Michael Plassmeyer - Painter could join the club later if ready, and perhaps be ready to stay in the rotation the rest of the way once he's there.

Based on what you've seen so far, who would occupy the final spots on the bench?

Two weeks ago, I assure you I'd have a very different answer.  The Phillies will likely break camp with a backup catcher (Garrett Stubbs), Edmundo Sosa, and Josh Harrison.  Beyond that - the Bryce Harper spot and one more bench spot need to be filled.   And I would fill them with Darick Hall and... Scott Kingery.

First, Hall.  I have said in this segment in previous weeks that for the defensively-limited Hall to occupy a roster spot, he will have to hit.  And so far he has.

In his first 15 at bats, Hall is hitting .400 with two home runs and an OPS of 1.367, walking three times. That's a small sample size, but that's pretty good.  Todd Zolecki recently noted that Hall is hitting not just right-handed pitchers, but left-handed pitchers as well.

The presence of Hall on the roster means that the Phillies would need a defensively versatile player in the other spot.  Enter Kingery.

We know that Kingery can play positions all over the diamond.  The way I see it, the one place the Phillies have no clear backup still is center field.  The Phillies likely will not give Johan Rojas time on the major league roster just yet.

Kingery has made two appearances in center field, one at second base, and three at shortstop in Grapefruit League action so far.  Should Kingery make the roster, he could help the Phillies in the infield and outfield.  A start in center field now and then against a tough lefty would be helpful.

That would allow the Phillies to play Sosa at third base and Harrison at second base on those days, with Alec Bohm occupying the designated hitter role.

Kingery is hitting so far this Spring in the early going, batting .385 with three walks and a stolen base.  He has not shown much power yet.

What Jake Cave and Kody Clemens have going for them so far is that they are left-handed hitters.  But neither Cave or Clemens have extended experience in center field.  For that reason, I give a slight edge to Kingery.

Should we be worried about the effect of the World Baseball Classic on Phillies camp?

The Phillies are well-represented in this year's World Baseball Classic.   The United States will feature Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and J.T. Realmuto.  Team Israel includes catcher Garrett Stubbs.  Venezuela includes Jose Alvarado and Ranger Suarez.  Taijuan Walker represents Mexico.

Yesterday, the Dominican Republic officially announced that yet-to-report Gregory Soto is out.

I think that it's a good idea that Soto report to Phillies camp once his visa issues are rectified, since he has not been there yet.   But the others all have solid roster spots on the Phillies roster and really just need some training to get back into baseball shape.

Playing baseball will help them be ready.

I think that this does represent a good opportunity for the Phillies to give innings to new arms, to give the aforementioned potential bench players at bats.

Without Schwarber at designated hitter, Hall can get at bats.  Without Turner at shortstop, Kingery can get some at bats.  Without Realmuto and Stubbs, the Phillies can see more of prospect Rafael Marchan.

The caveat always is that the more that people play, the opportunity for injury exits.  I prefer to let them play that keep them in Clearwater in bubble wrap.  I think the benefits of the World Baseball Classic to put baseball on the world stage outweigh injury risks.

The games will end on March 21 at the latest, and everyone will return for the final week before the Phillies head to take on the Texas Rangers on March 30.

More From 97.3 ESPN