CLEARWATER, Fla. — Less than two weeks from now, the Phillies will play meaningful baseball. It'll be Jeremy Hellickson vs. Scott Feldman at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on April 3. That is not exactly the sexiest of opening matchups, but the game is between two rebuilding teams, and it follows the general narrative of the 2017 Phillies.
Anticlimactic. So far.
So, with the countdown to real baseball underway, some observations after five weeks in Florida:
1. The Phillies wanted no drama this spring, and that is what they have received. No injuries. No controversies. No red flags. Just about everything has unfolded as planned, which is a little boring. The Phillies, right now, are fine with boring.
2. It's rare for a bad team to have so many guaranteed roster spots, but that is how the Phillies entered the spring. All along, the only open jobs were the final four spots — two on the bench and two in the bullpen. Really, it's one in the bullpen because Joely Rodriguez was a near lock to be a lefty reliever.
3. We say two on the bench because it would have taken a major disaster for Andrew Knapp to not be the backup catcher. Both player and team need this to work. The concern is not for his bat, which has been slowed this spring, but for how he can handle calling a game. Rebuilding teams can take risks such as Knapp, and that is what they will do.
4. No hitter has impressed as much as Aaron Altherr. He's hitting more balls in the air, with power, and has demonstrated a sharper approach at the plate. People around the Phillies are impressed with how Altherr responded to the team's acquiring two corner outfielders who now slot ahead of him. He is someone to watch in 2017.
5. The same could be said for Nick Williams, who said and did the right things after a dismal ending to his 2016 season at triple-A Lehigh Valley. He walked a few times. He was open to suggestions from coaches. He can play all three outfield positions. The Phillies hit reset with Williams, and it has him in a decent place as the 2017 season begins.
6. Just six strikeouts in 49 plate appearances for Maikel Franco. Spring stats don't matter. But it's possible to learn a little from watching how a hitter approaches his Grapefruit League at-bats.
7. No one has as much to gain or more to lose in the final 10 days than Adam Morgan. The 40-man roster crunch has put him in a vulnerable spot. But the Phillies need lefties, and they do not have a true long man in the bullpen. Morgan could be that guy. Or he could be on waivers if the Phillies look to clear space for a non-roster bench player such as Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava or Brock Stassi. Tough spot for Morgan, who overcame serious shoulder issues just to reach the majors and is respected inside the clubhouse.
8. It won't be a shock to see Zach Eflin begin the season on the disabled list. He is ticketed for Lehigh Valley's rotation, but the Phillies have been especially cautious in bringing him along this spring, after two knee surgeries in the winter. That could open a rotation spot at triple A for Alec Asher or Mark Leiter Jr.
9. You never know what you'll see on the back fields, such as Shane Watson sitting at 93-95 mph in a minor-league game Monday afternoon. The former first-round pick (40th overall in 2012) is a forgotten arm. Shoulder surgery in late 2013 compromised him. But Watson's velocity is way up. He's throwing more strikes. He has put himself in a crowded rotation mix between high-A Clearwater and double-A Reading.