Originally posted on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 2/25/12

Hyatt will look to build on impressive 2011 opening the 2012 Spring slate against Florida State. Photo by: Jacqueline Dormer, Republican Herald

Austin Hyatt TABBED TO START SPRING OPENER

Austin Hyatt will be handed the ball for the Phillies spring opener on February 29 against Florida State according to our pal David Hale at Delaware Online. Hyatt ranked 15th in Phillies Nation’s Prospect Nation and is a non-roster invitee to Phils’ big league camp. Hyatt was an Eastern League All-Star in 2011 for the R-Phils and had a tremendous second half. Hyatt may be on the short list for emergency starter duties for 2012 and should pitch primarily in Lehigh Valley.

The throwing schedule for February 29, also thanks to Hale, is as follows:

LHP Jacob Diekman
LHP Jeremy Horst
RHP Michael Schwimer
LHP Joe Savery
RHP JC Ramirez
RHP BJ Rosenberg
RHP Phillippe Aumont

Diekman was added to the 40-man roster over the off-season and figures to compete for a lefty role out of the ‘pen with Horst, Savery, and Dontrelle Willis. Diekman’s impressive repertoire may force Amaro to make a very difficult decision. It is likely that Schwimer, Aumont, David Herndon, and Justin DeFratus are competing for the last bullpen spot out of camp.

Greg Dobbs SAYS MARLINS ARE “TEAM TO BEAT”

This comes from the Why Not Us department.

The Florida Marlins finished 2011 72-90 and 30 full games behind the Phillies for first place in the NL East. Through much of the year, the Fish were missing both Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez, undoubtedly key contributors. They added Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Heath Bell, built a new stadium, and updated their uniforms for 2012 but will all of that close the 30 win difference?

Former Phillies third baseman Greg Dobbs thinks so.

Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post spoke to Dobbs, who had this to say:

I think from top to bottom, it’s probably the strongest division in baseball right now.

I’m not going to say the Phillies are the team to beat. I’m not going to say the Braves are the team to beat. It’s a whole new slate.

A lot of things can happen over the course of 162 games. I want us to be the team to beat and there isn’t any reason we cant be that team with the talent, the character and the personality of this clubhouse.

Optimism is a fair thing to have, but it’s doubtful that they will make up 30 games. Dobbs’s Fish would need to not only leapfrog the Phillies, but also jump ahead of the more-talented-than-the-Marlins-on-paper Braves and the rapidly improving Washington Nationals. I just don’t think they’re at that level yet but I’m glad Dobbs does.

“PLAY TO WIN AND BE PREPARED.”

Ruben Amaro joined CSN-Philly’s Jim Salisbury today to discuss Charlie Manuel‘s speech before opening full-squad workouts yesterday. Manuel used the Dobbs’s comments as ammunition in his opening speech. Manuel told Salisbury, “When someone says that, it’s good for our team. It’s good for Jimmy Rollins and [Shane] Victorino. It’s good for [Ryan] Howard. It’s good for our pitchers. I take that as a challenge. That’s OK. It’s part of baseball. At the same time, I think our guys will react to that in a good way.”

Amaro said Manuel “said exactly what needed to be said,” and had “good direction.” Asked if he added anything after Manuel spoke, Amaro noted his contribution was “Play to win and be prepared.” Video of Salisbury and Amaro can be found here.

MIXED MESSAGES AS BIG PIECE HEADS BACK TO PHILLY

Salisbury reported later this afternoon that Howard was headed back to Philadelphia for what was called a “setback” by Manuel but a “check-up” by Assistant GM Scott Proefrock. Amaro told Salisbury: “Ryan is progressing well. We just thought it would be a good idea to see the doctor to make sure he’s doing OK before he starts doing more activity.” Salisbury noted that Amaro called the visit routine.

Of note, Twitter was exploding earlier this afternoon that Howard was crushing baseballs. It sounds more like a check-up, but Manuel scares me that he used the word setback; Salisbury notes that Manuel does feel, however, that the Big Piece will not miss much time.

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