Maybe this isn’t the most glorifying position to follow especially when the incumbent, Cameron Rupp, most likely will start five to six times a week. Yet, the Phillies’ most interesting battle for an Opening Day roster spot could be Rupp’s backup.
The two who will jockey for position are Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro. The latter is two years younger than the former with Alfaro appearing in six games in the bigs toward the end of last season. Meanwhile, Knapp has yet to appear with the Phillies.
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The six-game difference won’t factor much into their decision since Alfaro struck out eight times with just two hits in 16 at-bats. General manager Matt Klentak previously said the organization knew these two would battle one another for a roster spot at some point. It’ll be a matter of who puts together the strongest spring in the difference between backing up Rupp on Opening Day or starting for Lehigh Valley.
Jeanmar Gomez? Hector Neris? Joaquin Benoit? These are all questions being asked by the Phillies brass. Gomez has the experience to his advantage, even with just one season of being the man in charge in the ninth inning. Gomez started off strong last season, finding himself among the league leaders in saves through the early months of the campaign but tailed off a bit in the second half.
Neris and Benoit don’t have much experience in the ninth, but with Gomez’s struggles towards the end, they’ll have the chance to win the position if they want. The projected back-end of the bullpen, though, and most likely the one most desired is Gomez in the ninth, Benoit in the eighth and Neris flipping between the seventh and eighth.
Backup First Baseman
If Knapp, or Alfaro, makes this roster, one of the two could fill in as both the backup catcher and first baseman if need be. That being said, the early portion of spring training has gave way to a surprising star in Brock Stassi.
Stassi is a first baseman, who would fill in nicely behind Tommy Joseph, but he also has some experience in the outfield having been drafted as one. Stassi is 4-for-6 with two homers and six RBI as of March 1. That’s as an impressive of a start as anyone could have hoped for from him.
If he even plays half as well as that the rest of the way, don’t be surprised if the 27-year-old finally gets his chance in the big leagues.