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Now that the studliest of the kids have been sent down, it's time to get serious. There are 38 players remaining in camp, and of course there are only 25 jobs to go around. Most of those 25 jobs are 99% settled, but with Sarfate demoted already, there's at least one bullpen job up in the air.

Here's the major-league roster as it stands right now (I think). Bold names are locks (or close), while italicized names are either trade candidates, guys on the bubble, or guys who would make the roster if a likely trade candidate was dealt.

  • Catchers:

  • Johnny Estrada
  • Damian Miller
  • Mike Rivera
  • J.D. Closser

  • Infielders:

  • Prince Fielder
  • Rickie Weeks
  • J.J. Hardy
  • Tony Graffanino
  • Craig Counsell
  • Vinny Rottino

  • Outfielders:

  • Corey Hart
  • Bill Hall
  • Geoff Jenkins
  • Kevin Mench
  • Brady Clark
  • Gabe Gross
  • Laynce Nix
  • Tony Gwynn Jr.

  • Starters:

  • Ben Sheets
  • Chris Capuano
  • Dave Bush
  • Jeff Suppan
  • Claudio Vargas

  • Bullpen contenders:

  • Francisco Cordero
  • Derrick Turnbow
  • Matt Wise
  • Brian Shouse
  • Jose Capellan
  • Greg Aquino
  • Grant Balfour
  • Zach Jackson
  • Mike Meyers
  • Chris Spurling
  • Joe Thatcher
  • Corey Thurman
  • Carlos Villanueva
A lot of those names in the bullpen have no real chance, but that doesn't hide the fact that there's a real competition going on. Ned hasn't decided whether he's going with 11 or 12 pitchers (6 or 7 relievers). If he goes with 11, the odds-on favorite for that last spot is still Aquino, as he probably has the highest upside as a short reliever, and he has no options.

If he goes with 12, I'm sure we'd all like to see Villanueva on the big-league team, but it seems more likely to me that Ned would go with a short reliever, such as Balfour. That's why I was surprised that Sarfate was sent down: I figured that last spot would come down to a competition between Balfour and Sarfate. So perhaps Sarfate's demotion means that Ned is considering carrying a long man, and now it's a competition between Villanueva and Jackson with Corey Thurman as the longest of long shots.

That's the only issue we haven't been talking about for months; at catcher and in the outfield, we're still stacked with too many options for backups, and you gotta wonder what kind of conversations Doug Melvin is having. I would hate to see Gabe Gross start the year in Nashville (if Ned goes with only 11 pitchers, it's probably to make room for him), and I would also hate to lose Mike Rivera for nothing.

Update [2007-3-21 21:33:3 by battlekow]: According to Rotoworld, JD Closser cleared waivers today, possibly indicating the Brewers could sneak Mike Rivera through as well, and definitely indicating there's not a huge market for backup catchers.