Darick Hall, Jake Cave and Phillies' bench candidates hot at the plate
Phillies' bench hopefuls hot at the plate as spring training nears midpoint originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
A handful of Phillies are fighting for the final two bench spots and most of them have started the spring hot at the plate.
Darick Hall, who has to be considered likely to make the opening-day roster at this point, hit two more home runs Friday against the Pirates. One was against a lefty in Caleb Smith. Hall is 9 for 19 this spring with four homers and seven RBI. He's also shown some more selectivity at the plate and that would certainly help his offensive output if it translates to the regular season. As always, spring numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but success is better than failure even when the games don't count.
Hall's left-handed power could be vital to the Phillies in the first half of the season as they await Bryce Harper's return. With Harper out, five of the Phillies' top six bats are right-handed hitters: Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm and Nick Castellanos. Kyle Schwarber will likely hit second, so another left-handed hitter would be useful in the four- or five-spots to break up the righties.
Veteran Jake Cave has a double, two triples and two homers in Grapefruit League play. He, too, seems likely at this moment to make the opening-day roster. His left-handed bat is not ideal because starting center fielder Brandon Marsh also hits left-handed, and if Hall and Cave both make the team, the Phillies would have three left-handed hitters on their four-man bench some nights. But Cave has been producing, both offensively and defensively. He's played roughly half of his big-league innings in center and has said he feels as fast as ever now that he's healthy after breaking his back in 2021.
Kody Clemens is 6 for 19 in camp with two homers of his own. He's solidly in the mix to make the team, but because Edmundo Sosa and Josh Harrison are locks, Clemens' infield versatility isn't as important as Cave's ability to play the outfield and specifically center. Clemens, who came over with reliever Gregory Soto in a January trade with the Tigers, has minor-league options left, as do Cave and Hall. Harrison has a guaranteed $2 million salary and no options remaining so he'll obviously be on the team.
Scott Kingery, entering the final guaranteed season of his six-year, $24 million contract, went deep Friday for his first homer of the spring. He's reached base in 11 of 21 plate appearances. Unlike Hall, Cave and Clemens, Kingery is not on the Phillies' 40-man roster. They'd have to remove a player to make room for him, which gives the others an advantage.
Dalton Guthrie is on the Phils' 40-man roster. He's just 1 for 20 with six strikeouts and no walks in camp, but his right-handedness and ability to play center field will keep him in the roster battle as well.
The Phillies began spring training with just three real competitions: fifth starter, final reliever, last two bench spots. Andrew Painter's elbow injury put Bailey Falter in the driver's seat for the final rotation job, although the Phillies could need another if Ranger Suarez' forearm tightness lingers. Lefty Michael Plassmeyer would seem to be the next man up.
Pitchers competing for the final bullpen spot include Nick Nelson, Cristopher Sanchez, Erich Uelmen, Yunior Marte, Luis Ortiz and Andrew Vasquez. Nelson was the Phils' long man last season.