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Phillies Opening Day roster is nearly complete

Roman Quinn, Zach Eflin and others are sent to AAA as the team shapes its 25-man roster.

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at Philadelphia Phillies Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

With just a couple days left until Opening Day, the Phillies are making their final roster decisions.

The team announced on Monday that they have optioned left-handed relief pitcher Zac Curtis, outfielder/infielder Roman Quinn and starting pitcher Zach Eflin to AAA. Here’s what these moves mean for the team with the first regular season game set for Thursday.

Starting Rotation

The starting five is set, although it will be just four starters until Jake Arrieta is ready to go. Aaron Nola will take the ball on Opening Day, with Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and Ben Lively in the rotation until Arrieta’s scheduled first start, set for April 8 at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins. Arrieta will likely start the season on the 10-day DL.

Lively beat out Eflin this spring with his performance on the mound and his solid half-season in the rotation last year. In 23 innings this spring, Lively gave up eight earned runs on 17 hits for a 3.13 ERA, with 15 strikeouts and two walks. Eflin, meanwhile, had a 5.79 ERA in 14 innings, and gave up nine earned runs on 15 hits with 11 Ks and three BBs. Lively went 4-7 in 15 big-league starts in 2017 with a 4.26 ERA and a 4.97 FIP. The team obviously felt like Lively was more likely to give them consistent innings than Eflin right now.

Bullpen

The Phillies are apparently going with a 9-man bullpen for the first couple weeks, which means one fewer hitter on the bench. Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Edubray Ramos, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Drew Hutchison and Hoby Milner are the first eight, with the final bullpen spot coming down to Victor Arano or Jake Thompson as the final bullpen piece.

Thompson was recently transitioned from being a starter to a reliever, while Arano is one of the best young arms in the system. Arano put up a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings this spring, with five strikeouts and one walk. Thompson was also good, with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings, with 12 Ks and five BBs. It’s likely whichever of the two makes the team out of camp will be sent back down to AAA once Arrieta is ready to be inserted in the starting rotation, however.

***UPDATE***

It appears Arano and Thompson will both make the squad as Hunter is headed for the DL.

The Bench

Well, let’s hope the Phillies don’t need many pinch-hitters early this season. Or, that their pitchers also know how to swing a bat.

With Quinn getting sent down, he’ll continue to work at shortstop in AAA while also getting reps in the outfield. Scott Kingery’s addition to the 25-man roster shook things up in a big way, with Quinn being the biggest loser in that exchange. Pedro Florimon has also made the 25-man roster, an interesting decision given that he’s 31 years old and has less upside than the 23-year-old Jesmuel Valentin. Still, Florimon played virtually every position this spring and has hit well since joining the Phillies. His flexibility will be even more important given the team’s short bench.

The other two bench spots go to one of either Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams and back-up catcher Andrew Knapp. Cameron Rupp was designated for assignment over the weekend.

Final Composition

The Phillies certainly run the risk of being short on offense heading up north with 12 position players and 13 pitchers, but keep in mind the Phils will probably model the Dodgers’ use of the 10-day DL this year, in which Los Angeles shuttled players back and forth from AAA and put players on the disabled list with the frequency of most bodily functions.

You will likely see an ever-changing roster throughout the 2018 season. But for now, this is the team you’re going to see when the Phillies take the field in Atlanta on Thursday.