The Pirates helped themselves to three runs, three hits, two walks and two wild pitches in Ricardo Rodriguez’s abysmal inning of relief, and went on to beat the Phillies 9-8 yesterday in Clearwater.
This was the third televised game of spring, so I observed from my couch. Rodriguez was awful. He had no command whatsoever. Several hitters had to bail out just to avoid getting drilled in the dome.
The Phillies must figure out what to do with the 27-year-old right-hander because he’s out of options. Clearly, he didn’t have command in relief yesterday, and he’s hasn't done enough to earn a job in the rotation. It’s beginning to look like his season could be spent with some other organization.
---- Though he allowed four hits, two runs and two walks, Ryan Madson got it together and put in a strong start, buckling knees with his curve and striking out six. There’s no doubt Madson (2.84 ERA) has earned a spot in the rotation, through Jim Salisbury reports that Tom Gordon's health could still factor into the decision, giving Rodriguez a glimmer of hope.
----- I was most impressed with right-handers Yoel Hernandez and Aquilino Lopez, who pitched the eighth and ninth. Hernandez (3.00 ERA) was in total command and sat the Bucs down in order. Then Lopez (3.86 ERA) mowed down the first two batters easily, gave up a double, but didn’t let it rattle him. He got ahead of the next batter and forced him to pop up weakly. A good word for Hernandez would be "poised". A good word for Lopez would be "filthy". I don’t know if there’s a better slider on the staff.
----- One guy that didn’t impress me was Shawn Garrett, who’s fighting for that last spot on the Phillies bench. Garrett went 0-5 with three strikeouts, seemingly on pitches that were right down broadway.
------ On the other hand, Chris Coste continued to show why he deserves that final spot. Coste came off the bench and nailed two homers. The feel good story of spring already has the feel of a sad ending. The roster is already stacked with right-handed bench players and they need a fifth outfielder. They say his best position is catcher, which makes one wonder how crazy it would be to let Coste stick as the backup catcher, and assign Sal Fasano to Scranton to work with Gavin Floyd and the other prospects. It’s a 1-in-100 chance, since the Phillies probably wouldn’t do it, and Fasano would need to clear waivers.
------ It’s good to see Bobby Abreu again, if only to be reminded of what a pro looks like at the plate. He had three hits yesterday, poking the ball to whatever spot on the field he wanted.
------ It's time for the Phils to say goodbye to Tomas Perez. Though he doubled yesterday, it was all nonsense, as former teammate Roberto Hernandez took to the hill and was basically throwing and not pitching. In his other at bats, Perez was swinging at balls a foot off the plate. Pie Man was a nice player for the Phillies and could do a lot of things, but it's time for the team to continue the offseason trend of moving forward. There are simply too many good young players that could help the team more.
------ And finally, the Inquirer reported today that David Bell has once again been sidelined with back spasms and could miss the season opener. I started prepping for an Alex Gonzalez and Abraham Nunez platoon months ago, and there’s no reason to stop now.