Ten Philadelphia Phillies will leave Spring Training in Clearwater, Florida for the World Baseball Classic, representing seven different countries.
Instead of further entrenching themselves in position battles, six projected Opening Day team members will take the field in honor of their respective country. The other four are prospects who have chosen to take their game to international competition before assignments to various Minor League affiliates.
OF Odubel Herrera, SS Freddy Galvis, RHP Jeanmar Gomez, and RHP Edubray Ramos will play for team Venezuela.
Herrera, 25, clearly has a roster spot for the upcoming campaign, so the WBC has little to no roster implications for him. One of the key cogs of the youth movement, Herrera will look to sharpen his skills in competitive action for his home country team of Venezula. Barring any injuries, El Torito will be penciled in on the Opening Day lineup card.
It’s hard to believe, but Freddy Galvis is now the longest-tenured Phillie following Ryan Howard’s departure this past Fall. At 27, he’s been a consistent gold-glove caliber defender, but his mediocre bat may put his future as a starter in jeopardy. The absence of Galvis means the organization’s top prospect, J.P Crawford, will get more reps of game action with the big club during spring, where he looks to make a lasting impression on Pete Mackanin.
Jeanmar Gomez was a surprise last year after coming over from Pittsburgh in 2015. Gomez took hold of the closer role, converting 37 of 43 opportunities, and comes into spring in that role. Though he looked shaky at times, pitching to a 3-5 record with a 4.85 ERA, he was effective many times. The 29-year old may not be in the Phillies’ future, but for now, he’s getting the job done. He’ll look to buff his stuff for Venezuela in preparation for April 3rd.
Seeing his first action in the majors late last year, Edubray Ramos, 24, should have a role out of the bullpen this year, an area where the Phils needed much help. Also a South American native, he teams up with Gomez, Galvis, and Herrera to have some familiar faces as they move through the World Baseball Classic schedule.
RHP Hector Neris will travel with team Dominican Republic. Likewise, veteran RHP Pat Neshek will represent the United States on a talented roster, albeit devoid of some of the game’s biggest superstars.
Hector Neris, 27, made his debut in 2014 and has arguably the best “stuff” on the big league roster. This spring, he was a leader to compete with Gomez for the ninth inning job, which he could still win with a great showing at the WBC and end of spring. Regardless, his 2.58 ERA and 1.11 WHIP earned him a spot at the end of the ‘pen. Neris’ roster spot is safe, so he can enjoy the time out of camp representing his native Dominican club.
The oldest member of Team USA is Pat Neshek, whom the Phillies acquired from Houston during the offseason. At 36, he looks be a stop gap in the bullpen, working as an inning-eater whenever Mackanin calls his number. For the United States, he’ll look to keep his arm fresh before returning to the Phillies.
Though it’s not on as big of a stage as the Olympics, the World Baseball Classic gives players the opportunity to wear the colors of their home country with great pride.
The most notable of the Minor Leaguers breaking from camp is catcher Jorge Alfaro, rated the fourth best prospect in the organization, who will play for Colombia. Nick Fanti (Italy), Kenny Koplove (Israel), and Nick Pivetta (Canada) are the other prospects leaving Clearwater. The future Phillies will look to hone their skills and impress coaches upon their return to their respective minor league squads.
Catch these Phillies in action from March 6-22 as competition heats up in the coming days. The games can be seen on MLB Network, or MLB.TV with a premium subscription.
(Photo by LiAnna Davis (Own work) [CC 3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)