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April 03, 2015

A few positives from Phillies spring training

Cliff Lee's injury and Ryan Howard's struggles were major storylines, but there was some good that came from Clearwater

Sure, the Phillies aren't going to be very good this season, and major developments like Cliff Lee's injury, constant Cole Hamels trade speculation, and Ryan Howard's continued major struggles at the plate put a major damper on the team's spring training. Still, the Phils did see some positive developments in Clearwater. Here are four of them:

Rule 5 pick produces

23-year-old Odubel Herrera has to stay on the major league roster for the entire season if the Phillies want to keep him, and he made that a pretty easy call for the brass this spring. "El Torito" ("the little bull") submitted a tidy triple slash of .355/.379/.468, and he'll start in center field on opening day, moving the defensively challenged Ben Revere over to left. Even though his power is extremely limited, Herrera even hit a couple of dingers, including this one:

The Phillies outfield still isn't going to have any power, as Herrera profiles as a very similar player to Revere with better defense. They still have to get through 162 games, though, and the Rule 5 pick has shown enough that the team can be comfortable doing so with him as a major part of the fold.

The kids are alright

The silver lining of having a patchwork rotation is that young pitchers are able to receive an opportunity. The Phillies gave a few of their top minor league arms a taste of action against big league hitters. Severino Gonzales, who is coming off a down year in part due to not throwing his best pitch all that much, tossed three scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves. Aaron Nola, the team's top pick in the 2014 draft, struck out four New York Yankees in three shutout innings. Zach Eflin, acquired in exchange for Jimmy Rollins in the offseason, got hit around a bit by the Pittsburgh Pirates but flashed a sinker that can kill quite a few worms in time.

Double-play combo flashes

Big Bat Freddy Galvis only hit .294 with his newfound heavier stick, but that's obviously a noticeable improvement from what we've usually seen from the soft-hitting shortstop. The Phillies are also trying to change his approach, focused more on making contact. So far, so good. At second, those looking for nostalgia are undoubtedly happy to see that The Man looks like The Man again. Chase Utley absolutely raked in his 31 at-bats this spring, launching four homers late.

Bullpen gets solidified

Two of the Phils' promising relievers, Jake Diekman and Ken Giles, didn't have great springs, but both of those of those guys are proven commodities that you would expect to be fine once the season gets going. Part of building a good bullpen involves getting lucky, and the Phillies might've found something in non-roster invitee Jeanmar Gomez, who submitted a 0.79 ERA in 11.1 innings pitched. On the other end of the stuff spectrum from Gomez is power pitcher Luis Garcia, who also had an excellent spring training. He struck out nine batters in 11 innings.