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April 02, 2016

Cedric Hunter lands job as Phils make Opening Day roster official

PHILADELPHIA – About 10 minutes after Cesar Hernandez ripped a walk-off base hit against Ricardo Pinto to lead the Phillies to a 6-5 win over their prospects for the second time in three days to complete the inaugural Futures Series, Cedric Hunter fiddled with a bag at his locker.

“I have to make sure I have everything,” the 28-year-old outfielder said inside the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.

Hunter was packing his equipment for Cincinnati, where the Phillies team charter flight was headed late Saturday afternoon. Hunter, along with utility infielder Emmanuel Burris and left-handed reliever James Russell, was added to the 40-man roster, said manager Pete Mackanin, following the competition of the team’s exhibition schedule.

Hunter, who hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2011, will line up with the team for the Opening Day festivities at Great American Ball Park on Monday afternoon.

“It’s official,” Hunter said. “It hasn’t sunken in yet at all. I’m going to get a little emotional.”

Hunter was one of the better stories in Phillies camp this spring.

He was drafted out of high school in 2006 and rose to the top spot of the Padres prospect list nine years ago. But his one and only opportunity in the big leagues came during a 10-day, six-game stretch in April of 2011.

This Tuesday marks the fifth-year anniversary of his one and only hit in the major leagues. Somehow, the Padres never retrieved the ball for the then-23-year-old rookie.

He’s hoping to collect a new moment before that anniversary arrives.

“Absolutely,” Hunter said. “I’m going to make sure I get that one. I’m glad it happened that way. I just felt like it wasn’t meant to be at that time. A new beginning.”

Hunter, who went 2-for-5 while starting in center field on Saturday, hit .262 (17-for-65) with five doubles and three home runs in 23 Grapefruit League games this spring. He emerged as arguably Mackanin’s favorite player in camp.

“Hunter has bad the best at-bats of anybody other than (Maikel) Franco in camp in my opinion,” the manager said earlier this week.

Throughout camp, Hunter said he didn’t let his early March success get into his head, and allow him to envision walking onto a big league field in April. It turns out he was lying.

“But that’s any player,” he said. “We’re going to tell you otherwise, but of course, you want to make that team. That’s the only reason that you’re there. There’s no other reason to play than to get to the big leagues. I’ve come a long way and it was well deserved.”

While the future of the Phillies outfield likely belongs to the likes of Roman Quinn and Nick Williams (the latter  homered on Saturday), Hunter should have an opportunity to extend his big league career beyond Opening Day in the coming month.

And wouldn’t the cherry on top of his spring that saw him win a roster spot on Saturday be seeing his name in the Phillies starting nine on Monday?

“I don’t know – I mean, we’ll find out,” Hunter said. “We’ll find out when that lineup is up there Opening Day. But I’m excited. I’m really good friends with (Cincinnati Reds second baseman) Brandon Phillips [They grew up together in the Atlanta area]. I’m going to be competing against him. I gave him a little shout out to let him know I’d be there.”

The Phillies announced several moves to make their Opening Day roster for complete: LF/3B Cody Asche (oblique strain) and right-hander Michael Mariot (right ankle strain) were placed on the 15-day disabled list while Matt Harrison (back/disc injury), Mario Hollands (Tommy John surgery), and Aaron Altherr (left wrist surgery) were placed on the 60-day DL.

Here is the finalized 25-man roster:

Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz and Cameron Rupp.

Infielders (7): Andres Blanco, Emmanuel Burris, Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Ryan Howard, Darin Ruf.

Outfielders (4): Peter Bourjos, Tyler Goeddel, Odubel Herrera, Cedric Hunter.

Starting Pitchers (5): Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Charlie Morton, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez.

Bullpen (7): Jeanmar Gomez, David Hernandez, Dalier Hinojosa, Hector Neris, Brett Oberholtzer, James Russell, Daniel Stumpf.

Rotation schedule

Mackanin made one other tidbit official following Saturday's game: Jerad Eickhoff will start on Friday afternoon at Citi Field in New York (the Mets home opener), followed by Vince Velasquez on Saturday night, and Jeremy Hellickson on Sunday. Hellickson will first take the ball on Opening Day on Monday, with Aaron Nola and Charlie Morton following.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21