The Phillies have said improving their bullpen is a top priority. Joe Blanton has reinvented himself as a top-flight reliever. Any chance for a reunion?
-- Shaunta N., New Hope, Pa.
I have mentioned Blanton as a possibility. I think he makes a lot of sense. First, the Phillies need somebody reliable to pitch 70-80 innings in the back of the bullpen. Blanton would give them security, particularly knowing they will have less flexibility with the 40-man roster because of the number of prospects they need to protect. Second, he might be willing to sign a short-term contract, which is what the Phils want.
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Why haven't the Phillies released or outrighted more players from the 40-man roster to protect more of the team's top prospects from the Rule 5 Draft? Why risk losing them?
-- Faith, New Hope, Pa.
The Phillies have until Friday to make those decisions, so they could clear more room on the 40-man. They have eight spots available, but that might be enough. It is important to note that the club can't or shouldn't protect everybody.
Why? Well, because some of those prospects are too young or inexperienced to remain on a big league roster the entire season, which means the Phils would be wasting 40-man roster spots by placing them there. For example, some thought outfielder Carlos Tocci could have been selected in the Rule 5 Draft last year, but there was never any risk of that. Tocci was a 19-year-old that had not played higher than Class A Clearwater. No big league team would keep a player like that on its 25-man roster the entire season, so the Phillies wisely left him unprotected.
The Phillies also can't place every prospect on the 40-man because they need flexibility for the 25-man roster. In other words, if they place a bunch of prospects on the roster that aren't ready for the big leagues, they could find themselves shorthanded during the season when they need to make roster moves.
So who's in the Phillies' outfield on Opening Day?
-- Max H., Philadelphia
At the moment, we know Philadelphia has Howie Kendrick in left field and Odubel Herrera in center field. That leaves Aaron Altherr, Roman Quinn and others battling for time in right. The Phillies want to keep some flexibility in the outfield for their younger players, which is why I don't think they will pursue another veteran everyday player for right.
I expect prospects like Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens to open the season in Triple-A, but they could be up at some point. It should be a good competition to watch in Spring Training, but at the moment, I think it'll be Altherr or Quinn.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.