ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It will only be a camp game, three innings under simulated conditions, against largely anonymous minor leaguers at the Carpenter Complex.
Or it will be just another Grapefruit League game against the Indians at quaint Chain O' Lakes Park in Winter Haven.
Nonroster invitee Kris Benson will pitch in the former for the Phillies today. Travis Blackley will start the latter.
In the big scheme, neither contest would figure to merit any special attention. Benson, who missed all last season following shoulder surgery, isn't considered likely to be fully rehabilitated by Opening Day. Blackley is a Rule 5 draft choice.
Except that the biggest developing story in the Phillies camp is the way righthander Adam Eaton has lost his grip on the fifth spot in the rotation. After posting a 6.29 earned run average last season and being left off the postseason roster, he's been tattooed in his first two starts of the spring. After giving up four runs in two innings on Thursday, he said his back has been bothering him. It's looking more and more as if even the $17.125 million the Phillies have to pay him over the next 2 years won't be enough to save his reserved seat.
Assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Eaton will see a doctor again; two previous X-rays revealed nothing that would explain his 15.75 spring ERA.
So now, the guessing game begins in earnest.
Will Benson show enough today for the Phillies to project him as being ready sooner than expected?
Will Blackley, who was left unprotected by the Giants, establish himself in the last 3weeks of exhibitions?
Will a longshot candidate like Fabio Castro assert himself? That's an intriguing thought after he pitched three near-perfect innings, allowing just one walk, in yesterday's 9-1 exhibition loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Progress Energy Park at Al Lang Field.
"That might be the best three innings I've ever seen him pitch," manager Charlie Manuel said. "When he pitches like that, you take notice."
Will the Phillies hold their breath, cross their fingers and hand the job to touted prospect Carlos Carrasco, even though he doesn't turn 21 for a couple more weeks? He lasted just 1 innings against the Rays yesterday and was tagged for six earned runs on five hits and four walks.
"His stuff wasn't as good as it was last time. Next time it will probably be better," Manuel said. "To me, it's good to keep him here as long as possible and let him pitch in major league games as long as we can."
Will the job fall to veteran Chad Durbin, who was signed as a free agent this winter with the thought that he could possibly fill that spot if needed? He has a 7.20 ERA so far.
Will the other Durbin, J.D., get a shot? His ERA is 7.50.
Will the Phillies make a call to still-unsigned free agent Kyle Lohse to see if remaining unemployed into March has softened his demand for a big bucks, multiyear contract?
Will they make a trade, maybe see if Oakland have made Joe Blanton available or if the Cubs are ready to deal some of their excess?
There are suddenly a lot of questions. The Phillies hope to start getting some more answers beginning this afternoon.
Rays 9, Phillies 1
Cole Hamels had his second straight rocky start of the spring, allowing three runs on five hits in three innings yesterday, but seemed a lot less perturbed about his 12.80 Grapefruit League earned run average than having his contract renewed at $500,000 earlier in the week.
"If I feel physically right, even if the results aren't what I want, then I feel like I've accomplished something," he said. "My velocity won't be back until the end [of the exhibition schedule]. I kind of got used to this last year with all the home runs (nine in 20 innings) and runs (6.10 ERA) I gave up. But after the success I had last season, I know it's just part of the routine."
The Phillies had just five hits and fell to 4-6-1 for the spring.
Nobody's panicking, obviously, but defending National League MVP Jimmy Rollins is hitting .136 after going 0-for-4.
After the Phillies and Jays were rained out after five innings in Clearwater on Thursday, both teams agreed to get some extra work in after yesterday's game. So another 5 innings were played.
Tom Gordon struck out the side in his inning of work while allowing a walk and a single. Joe Bisenius, Ron Chiavacci and Zack Segovia each pitched an inning and Brian Mazone pitched two frames.
Nonroster infielder Casey Smith had a double in two at-bats. While he appears to have little chance to make the team, he's having a terrific spring, going 5-for-10, with two doubles, a homer, a walk and three runs scored.
Wes Helms got another start, this time at first base, against the Rays yesterday. He's among the team leaders with 20 at-bats this spring, as the Phillies continue to showcase a player who doesn't seem to have a role since Pedro Feliz was signed as a free agent.
It's believed that the Braves and Marlins have shown at least mild interest. Helms went 0-for-3 yesterday, dropping his Grapefruit League average to .200.
There's a spot painted in the grass in right-centerfield at Al Lang Field that marks the location where home plate would be in the new open-air, retractable-roof stadium that has been proposed as the replacement from Tropicana Field.
That's still up in the air. But what seems certain is that the Phillies yesterday made their next-to-last visit to the site where major league teams have trained for the last 83 years. After this season, the Rays will move to Port Charlotte.