Phillies make key bullpen, bench moves

Araujo, Garcia, Sweeney sent to Triple-A; LaFromboise, Roibal, Leroux reassigned to Minors camp

Phillies make key bullpen, bench moves

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies solidified their rotation Monday, prior to a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays, when they named Vince Velasquez their No. 5 starter.

But they also crystallized their bullpen and bench battles. They signed outfielder Will Venable to a Minor League contract after the Indians released him. He could make the Opening Day roster. They also optioned left-hander Elvis Araujo, right-hander Luis Garcia and outfielder Darnell Sweeney to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and reassigned left-hander Bobby LaFromboise, right-hander Reinier Roibal, right-hander Chris Leroux, catcher Logan Moore and infielder Angelys Nina to Minor League camp.

The moves point to Rule 5 Draft pick Daniel Stumpf making the Phils' bullpen.

Stumpf strikes out Hicks

There are four locks to make the Phillies' bullpen: right-handers David Hernandez, Dalier Hinojosa and Jeanmar Gomez and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer. Stumpf figures to get one of the final three jobs as Philadelphia tries to stockpile arms. If he does not make the Opening Day roster, the Phils could lose him because of his Rule 5 Draft status. Simply put, it makes sense to open the season with him to give him a longer evaluation.

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"Stumpf has the pitches to be an effective Major League pitcher," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Since we're building for the future, it's important that you have a 26-year-old left-hander with what I consider good stuff. You don't want to just give him back. So that's still to be decided, but we like him so far."

Right-handers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey and left-hander James Russell have a chance for jobs, although plenty can happen with less than a week remaining before Opening Day.

The Phils must place Mujica on the Opening Day roster by Tuesday, or he can become a free agent. The decision has not yet been made.

Mujica fans Martin

Frieri can exercise an out clause Thursday, although he has only pitched well as of late. Russell has a June 1 out clause. Bailey has a May 1 out clause. Mackanin has been lukewarm at best about Bailey's past three appearances.

Mackanin said the other day that there is a good possibility the Phillies might carry three left-handers in the bullpen, which, if true, indicates Russell has the edge with Araujo and LaFromboise sent to the Minors.

Optioning pitchers like Araujo and Garcia and sending LaFromboise to Minor League camp indicates the Phils are trying to keep as many arms as possible for the 162-game season.

Keep in mind, the Phillies also could find relievers outside the organization this week that could bump out Mujica, Frieri, Russell or Bailey.

"That's part of the reason -- we have more depth to go to at the Minor League level," Mackanin said about Monday's moves. "But strike-throwers are important. We need guys that we can count on to pitch ahead in the count. We want to be able to trust them to throw strikes, and we feel like we've got those guys right now."

Venable, Cedric Hunter, Emmanuel Burriss and David Lough are in the running for the team's final bench jobs.

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.