CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies made Saturday a bullpen day.
They pitched nine relievers in a 6-5 loss to the Tigers in a Grapefruit League game at Bright House Field. Many of them have a good shot at making the seven-man bullpen, but it seems like none of the pitchers on the bubble separated themselves from the pack.
"Not really," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're going to take it right down to the end and then make our decision. We're close. The guys that are pitching well are going to have a chance. And the guys that don't have a chance are cutting themselves."
There are plenty of guys to choose from. After all, the Phillies still have 15 healthy relievers in camp with the season opener just nine days away in Cincinnati. Right-handers David Hernandez, Dalier Hinojosa and Jeanmar Gomez and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer are locks. Right-hander Edward Mujica has pitched well. He has a 2.45 ERA in six appearances. If he is not a lock, he is close to one.
Mujica, who is a non-roster invitee on a Minor League contract, has an out-clause. The Phillies had until midnight ET on Saturday to place him on the Opening Day roster. But that offer was not expected, because the Phillies actually have more time than that to make a decision.
If the Phillies do not place him on the roster, Mujica can request his release Sunday. The Phillies then have 48 hours to make a decision on him. Essentially, they have to make a decision by Tuesday.
Right-hander Andrew Bailey remains a candidate. He started the spring well, but he has allowed four runs in his last two innings.
"[Bailey] was spraying the ball around a little bit," Mackanin said. "I'd like to see better command."
Meanwhile, right-hander Ernesto Frieri struggled early in camp, but threw a clean seventh inning against the Tigers. His velocity picked up, too.
"I was excited about Frieri," Mackanin said. "[Pitching coach Bob] McClure has been trying to get him to throw a little more across his body, like he used to throw. They tried to change his mechanics. We're trying to get him back to where he was before, to create the deception he used to have."
Left-handers Daniel Stumpf (4.35 ERA in eight appearances), Bobby LaFromboise (1.08 ERA in seven appearances) and James Russell (3.38 ERA in six appearances) remain candidates. Mackanin said "it's a good possibility" that the Phillies will carry three left-handers in the bullpen. But if they carry three, it means only one of these veteran right-handers make the team: Mujica, Bailey or Frieri.
The Phillies might play the numbers game. They might keep as many arms in the system as possible. Stumpf is a Rule 5 Draft pick, so he must stay on the 25-man roster the entire season to remain in the organization. Frieri has a Thursday out-clause, while Bailey (May 31) and Russell (June 1) have out-clauses later in the season. LaFromboise is out of options, but he can start the season in the Minor Leagues. Right-handers Luis Garcia and Hector Neris and left-hander Elvis Araujo have options, which should come into play.
The Phillies could open with pitchers like Mujica, Frieri and Stumpf and see how they fare. If they struggle, they could move to Bailey, Russell and others.
"I'd like to think they'd take the best guy out there," Russell said. "If I earn it, then hopefully I'm the one that they take."
"Anything can happen," Mackanin said. "We don't know what's going to happen. There could be a trade. There might be somebody picked up on waivers."
Non-roster invitee Cedric Hunter strengthened his case to make the Opening Day roster. He singled and had a sacrifice fly to score a run.
"He has squared the ball up as well as anybody all spring," Mackanin said. "I like him a lot. He's shown pretty good arm accuracy. He gives you good solid at-bats."
Odubel Herrera went 2-for-5. It was his second game back after missing time with a bruised left middle finger. Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Goeddel went 1-for-4. He is hitting .250.
Howard snaps skid Ryan Howard had been hitless in 11 at-bats with six strikeouts since crushing a grand slam over the batter's eye in center field on March 18. But he went 2-for-4 with a double, with both hits coming against Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander.
Howard is hitting .233 (10-for-43) with four doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs this spring.
Nola thows in Minors game
Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola threw 5 1/3 innings in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex. He allowed six hits, two runs, three walks and struck out seven.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.