The Phillies, who like to carry seven relievers, likely have three spots open for competition in their bullpen. Realistically speaking, one of those spots already belongs to Phillippe Aumont. That leaves two spots for a handful of candidates.
Over the offseason, I considered Jeremy Horst to be a shoo-in for one of these positions. He was incredible during the 2012 season and should have earned a spot that was his to lose in spring training. Now, after a poor start to the spring, we have to ask the question.
Has he lost it?
Horst has been hit hard this spring, surrendering eight earned runs in just 7.1 innings. For comparison's sake, this is a man who allowed four earned runs all of last season. While that should not be forgotten, we also have to consider that he could very well be a fringe reliever who caught lightning in a bottle for one season.
One guy that is really pressing him is Jake Diekman, who would be the benefactor of Horst's loss at this point.
Diekman has struck out 13 batters in eight innings this spring, and if there is one surefire way for a reliever to excel at the major league level, it's to rack up the strikeouts.
But there is a catch. Diekman was roughed up in his last appearance of the spring, allowing three runs on four hits and issuing a walk.
The Phillies have always maintained that if Diekman could show some command, he'd have a spot in the bullpen. Well, he is having a better spring than Horst, even if only slightly at this point, and looks as though he could be a real weapon against left-handed hitters.
I would call it a surprise, at least right now, to see the Phillies take two lefties to fill those final spots, so this could very well be a battle between Horst and Diekman.
I'm giving the edge to the latter.