March 13, 2005

Late-inning heroics pace Phils past Braves


Tim Gradoville, a catcher with Clearwater and Lakewood last year, hit a two-out, two-run pinch-hit single in the 10th inning to lead the Phillies past the Braves 10-9.

Armchair analysis
Like the game last week, I saw a game decided in the late-innings by young pitchers and defense. The Phillies got out to an early lead when Jim Thome hit a pair of two-run homers, and Placido Polanco hit his second two-run shot in two days. Most of the regulars were replaced after the fifth inning. Both teams traded a couple unearned runs, one off a bobbled flyball by Phillies leftfielder Jim Deschaine. Adrian Herrera, trying to close it out for Atlanta, walked the bases loaded and gave up the single to Gradoville, just as the teams were running out of players.

Looking good
I often say the preseason doesn't mean a whole lot, especially for the veterans, but I'm kidding myself if I didn't say Placido Polanco is picking up where he left off last year and looks sharp early on. From my vantage point, watching the game on a 17-inch television in Schnecksville, Pa. and nursing a Diet Cherry Coke, he appears to be in great shape and seems determined to win back a starting job. And over at Yankee camp in the other split-squad game, there was encouraging news that Pat Burrell went 2-2 with another double.

Pitching concerns
Whether or not the Phillies are saying it, there's early concern about the starting rotation. Vicente Padilla will miss at least two weeks with elbow tendonitis, and already Gavin Floyd, their plan-B, will see action. After Floyd, the waters get dangerously shallow.

This spring, I believe the Phils are searching for an emergency arm that can get the call-up and produce, and are giving mid-level prospects Keith Bucktrot and Robinson Tejeda a lot of looks.

Bucktrot, ranked 5th-best prospect in the organization a year ago by "Baseball America," looked bad once again. Larry Anderson nailed the problem when he pointed out Bucktrot was too slow in coming over the top with his pitches, giving hitters, particularly left-handers, all day to read him. It doesn't help that his fastball has no movement. Bucktrot surrendered two earned runs including a home run in 1 and 1/3 innings yesterday.

Robinson Tejeda throws hard and can make hitters chase, but can be very wild, as he was with Reading last year. Tejeda hasn't looked bad in the two televised games, and struck out two more yesterday, but he also hit a batter hard in the back.

Geoff Geary
A good game pitched by Geoff Geary will be the first I've seen. He struggled again yesterday, giving up three hits and two runs, but earned the win by dumb luck. He's very hittable and shouldn't make the team.

Pedro Liriano and Edwin Moreno pitched the first 4 2/3 innings, each surrendering two runs.

In all, there hasn't been much to get excited about from the young pitchers this spring.

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