By Mary Cunningham

The Phillies have started to winnow down their roster, sending right-handers Jake Thompson, Mark Appel and Zach Eflin (above) to minor league camp.

“I think deep down, we all kind of see that and think about that,” Appel said about their collective futures. “The three of us have played against each other at different levels of the Minor Leagues and now we’re all on the same team, and we see each other’s talent and we get excited about it.”

These were the Phillies’ first roster transactions of spring — not because the pitchers didn’t meet expectations, but because they are such a critical part of the club’s future. Philly needs them to get ready for the Triple-A season, which means building up arm strength by increasing their workload as spring progresses. That would not have happened in Phillies camp.

Thompson, Appel and Eflin are the No. 2, No. 4 and No. 13 prospects in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com. Thompson and Appel are the No. 55 and No. 70 prospects in baseball. The trio will open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, forming one of the most talented rotations in the Minor Leagues. The Phillies want them to begin their preparations for that season. What happens after that is up to them.