Phils acquire infielder Nix, option reliever Aumont
Brignac informed he doesn't make team as club tries to round out bench, 'pen
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. insisted Friday afternoon not every decision had been made about his club's Opening Day roster.
"It'll probably go way up until then," he said about Sunday's 3 p.m. ET deadline to set the roster.
The reality is much different behind the scenes. Amaro, manager Ryne Sandberg and a host of front-office executives, scouts and coaches have watched every player in camp for the past six weeks. They have a clear idea who will make the roster in time for Monday's season opener in Texas. In fact, they are likely to have everything finalized following Saturday's exhibition game against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies took a few steps closer to that outcome following Friday's 3-0 loss to the Pirates. They announced they had acquired infielder Jayson Nix from the Rays for cash considerations, immediately adding him to the 40-man roster. They also optioned right-hander Phillippe Aumont to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and informed infielder Reid Brignac, who had been in camp as a non-roster invitee, that he would not make the team.
The Phillies needed bench help. After losing infielder Freddy Galvis to MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and outfielder/first baseman Darin Ruf to a strained left oblique, the club in the last week outrighted infielder Kevin Frandsen, who opted for free agency and signed with Washington, and released infielder Ronny Cedeno and outfielder Bobby Abreu.
Nix, 31, hit .236 with three home runs, 24 RBIs and a .619 OPS in 87 games last season with the Yankees. He started 48 games at shortstop and 41 at third base, presumably making the Phillies feel a little more comfortable about their backup shortstop situation while Galvis recovers from his infection.
Nix has hit .218 with a .647 OPS over parts of six seasons with the Rockies, White Sox, Indians, Blue Jays and Yankees.
The Phillies now have five locks for their bench: catcher Wil Nieves, infielders Cesar Hernandez and Nix, and outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr. and John Mayberry Jr.
"I like my bench," Amaro said. "I'll like it more when we finish it off, but to me, it's about being versatile and making sure we have guys who can go out there and play. But the people we have on our radar screen as far as rounding it out, I like the versatility."
The Phillies have considered carrying a six-man bench the first two weeks of the season because they do not need a fifth starter until April 13. But they seem so thin, they could carry eight relief pitchers instead.
The Phils have four locks for the bullpen: closer Jonathan Papelbon, left-hander Antonio Bastardo, left-hander Jake Diekman and right-hander Brad Lincoln. They have five candidates for the remaining three or four spots: right-handers B.J. Rosenberg, Justin De Fratus, Shawn Camp and Jeff Manship, and left-hander Mario Hollands.
Aumont went 0-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 10 Grapefruit League appearances. He allowed nine hits, four earned runs, seven walks and struck out three in 13 innings. He simply needs more fine-tuning.
"We have some guys that have pitched pretty well," Amaro said.
The Phillies have two spots available on the 40-man roster. That comes into play with non-roster players like Camp, Manship and Hollands.
Howard, Brown options to DH in Texas
PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown could start at designated hitter during the Phillies' season-opening series against the Rangers, manager Ryne Sandberg indicated on Friday.
The Phillies open the regular season on Monday with a three-game Interleague series in Texas, where games will be played under American League rules. Sandberg said he's thinking about starting Howard at DH and playing John Mayberry Jr. at first base in one of the games. The manager also mentioned using Brown as his DH with Tony Gwynn Jr. in the outfield.
"I'm first waiting to see the full roster, but I've got some options there," Sandberg said. "Ryan Howard would be in the mix for that, with Mayberry in the lineup. Tony Gwynn could play into that somewhere with Domonic Brown. There's some options there. Depending on the pitching, once I know their rotation, there's some options there."
Right-hander Tanner Scheppers will start for the Rangers on Opening Day, with left-handers scheduled to start on Tuesday and Wednesday. If Sandberg wants to stack the lineup with left-handed hitters against Scheppers, he could start Gwynn in left field and Brown at DH. It's conceivable Howard could be the DH on Tuesday and Wednesday, which would allow the right-handed-hitting Mayberry to be in the lineup at first base.
Lee weighs in on new drug program rules
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies player representative Cliff Lee said earlier this week he would be in favor of increased penalties and testing for the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and on Friday, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced modifications to the Program that accomplish both things.
A first-time performance-enhancing substance violation of the Joint Drug Program will now result in an unpaid 80-game suspension, increased from 50 games. A player's second violation will result in an unpaid 162-game suspension (and a loss of 183 days of pay), increased from 100 games. A third violation will result in a permanent suspension from baseball.
"Guys who try to cheat should be punished, and if 50 games isn't enough of a deterrent, then I'm OK with them upping it," Lee said Wednesday after his final Spring Training start. "That's just me. More important than that, I think they need to find a way to make sure they are catching guys.
"I think they need to focus on how to catch them more than increasing the penalties. Because if they can't catch them, then it doesn't matter what the penalty is."
The number of in-season random urine collections will more than double from 1,400 to 3,200 -- the largest increase in testing frequency in the program's history.
Brown shakes off flu, says he's ready to go
PHILADELPHIA -- Domonic Brown said he's recovered from a lingering flu that bothered him for over a week in Spring Training, and the Phillies outfielder believes he will be ready for Opening Day on Monday.
"It's time to go, I'm excited for the season to start," Brown said before Friday's exhibition against the Pirates.
Brown, who exited Wednesday's Grapefruit League game after three innings because of flu-like symptoms before sitting out on Thursday to recover, was back in the lineup on Friday. He said it helped to be back in front of the home fans at Citizens Bank Park.
"I've got a lot of energy and I'm ready to go," Brown said.
Brown initially missed four games with the flu two weeks ago, but felt well enough to start five straight games before coming out early on Wednesday. However, the left fielder doesn't expect to miss any more time with the illness.
"I've never had the flu like that, that's why I was a little worried," Brown said. "I don't know what the [heck] I had. I'm glad that it's all getting out of there now."
• The Phillies hosted the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and Phillies fans before Friday's exhibition game against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. It included autograph sessions, question-and-answer sessions with players and coaches and a few words from Phillies president David Montgomery and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. on the field.
"Obviously there has been some change here," Amaro said. "I think change is good. One of the changes we have is the manager. We know Charlie [Manuel] served us with some wonderful years in this very ballpark, but I think that Ryno [Ryne Sandberg] and his staff has prepared our players as well as we've ever had our players prepared to take on this championship season."
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.