Countdown to Clearwater: The Phillies' top 10 spring training storylines

Countdown to Clearwater: The Phillies' top 10 spring training storylines

Phillies pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14 and the first full-squad workout of spring training is Feb. 17. 

On the days leading up to the start of camp, CSN Phillies scribes Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman broke down the top 10 storylines surrounding the 2017 Phillies.

Here's a recap:

Day 1: Get to know the new acquisitions

Day 2: Focus on Aaron Nola's elbow

Day 3: Top prospects look to make an impression this spring

Day 4: New hitting coach Matt Stairs has quite a challenge

Day 5: Rotation has vets, young talent and depth

Day 6: Several candidates for closer

Day 7: Mapping out the five-man bench

Day 8: How will Phillies set the lineup?

Day 9: Will Pete Mackanin get an extension?

Day 10: Charting the path to a successful 2017 Phillies season

Phillies agree to 1-year deal with reliever Joaquin Benoit

Phillies agree to 1-year deal with reliever Joaquin Benoit

Update: Dec 6, 12:09 p.m.

The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $7.5 million contract with right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit, a source tells CSN's Jim Salisbury. The Phillies announced the deal on Tuesday. RHP Michael Mariot was designated for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster.

Benoit, 39, was the 11th-oldest pitcher in baseball last season, but he's remained effective as he's aged. Since 2010, Benoit has a 2.40 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, he's struck out 10.0 batters per nine innings while walking 2.8, and allowed a .189 batting average.

Benoit has also maintained his velocity through the years. His fastball averaged 94.2 mph last season, which is actually faster than it was in 2010.

Benoit has been in the majors for 15 years, spending eight with Texas, three with Detroit, two with San Diego, one with Tampa Bay and a half-season apiece with Seattle and Toronto.

Benoit has experience closing but has spent the majority of his career as a setup man. Benoit, along with Hector Neris, figures to have a place in the eighth or ninth inning for the Phillies in 2017, perhaps pushing last year's closer, Jeanmar Gomez, back to the seventh inning.

MLB clears Ryan Howard of PED allegations from December Al Jazeera report

MLB clears Ryan Howard of PED allegations from December Al Jazeera report

Major League Baseball concluded its investigation and on Friday cleared Ryan Howard of any wrongdoing regarding Al Jazeera's December report that the Phillies first baseman used performance-enhancing drugs.

Howard had vehemently denied using PEDs and sued the network for defamation, claiming Al Jazeera "publicly smeared" him. Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, also named in the Al Jazeera report, filed a defamation suit, too.

"The accusations from Al Jazeera came out of nowhere, and I was shocked and outraged by their false claims," Howard said in a statement. "I welcomed the investigation by Major League Baseball as an opportunity to clear my name. I was fully cooperative and transparent in the process, and MLB's findings validate what I have said publicly. 

"I am glad that this part of the process has concluded, and I look forward to holding the responsible people accountable for these false and defamatory claims in my ongoing litigation against Al Jazeera and its reporters."

The Al Jazeera documentary, which focused mostly on NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, aired in late December. The report centered on the claims of Charles Sly, who at one time was affiliated with an Indianapolis-area anti-aging clinic. Sly made his claims while being secretly videotaped by a representative of the network. Sly began backpedaling from his comments even before the report aired and has since recanted his statements.

The report alleged that Manning received PEDs as he was recovering from neck surgery in 2011. Manning has strongly denounced the report and denied any wrongdoing.

The report also stated that Howard received PEDs. Howard denied those allegations to the network before the documentary aired. According to the suit, Howard's legal team warned the network not to broadcast lies about its client. The network stood by its report, which included the allegations against Howard. William Burck, a member of Howard's legal team, called the allegations “outright lies.” Burck followed up with a letter to Al Jazeera demanding a full and immediate retraction of the report. A week after the letter was sent, Howard filed lawsuit.

"We believe Al Jazeera deliberately ignored the facts and relied on people they knew to be unreliable to report the story for its sensationalist value," Burck said in a statement. "Al Jazeera didn't care about the truth or the harm they caused by broadcasting their false story."