Daulton Opening In Fourth Slot

Posted: April 03, 1996

The top third was easy. The bottom third took care of itself. It wasn't until yesterday afternoon that anyone knew how Jim Fregosi would shape the middle part of his batting lineup.

For opening night, Fregosi had Darren Daulton hitting fourth, Mark Whiten fifth and Todd Zeile sixth.

``That's how I plan on hitting them at this particular moment,'' Fregosi said before the game.

And how long did he expect the ``moment'' to last?

``Maybe until tomorrow night,'' Fregosi joked.

Fregosi will change the lineup for a lefthanded starter. He has already said that Pete Incaviglia would play in place of Daulton against lefties. The righthanded-hitting Zeile might also move up in the order against lefties. Whiten is a switch hitter.

The other variable is Daulton's health. Fregosi said he would closely monitor Daulton's response to playing on artificial turf night after night.

``It is going to be a day-to-day process,'' Fregosi said. ``The lines of communication between Dutch and myself will be open. I will check with him almost daily to see how he's doing.''

GRACE, READY OR NOT. Tonight's starting pitcher, rookie Mike Grace, was deadpan when asked how it felt to come north with the major-league team for the first time.

``It's colder,'' Grace said. ``Really, I'm glad it's here. No one ever thinks they're ready, but you really are. At least, I hope I am. You're always trying to improve. You never get to the point where you think you have it all figured out. But when the bell rings, it's time to get going. Ready or not.''

Grace and Rich Hunter give the Phillies two rookies in the starting rotation. That lack of experience is one reason many preseason analyses have written off the Phillies' pitching staff.

``I don't pay attention to that,'' Grace said. ``A lot of people say that, but I really don't. It can work to your advantage, though. If people expect you to be an ace, there's a whole different kind of pressure. We don't have a lot of pressure on us. All we can do is go out and pitch the best we can.''

IN THE WRIST. Infielder Mike Benjamin, who underwent surgery to repair cartilage in his right wrist about a month ago, is within ``weeks'' of returning to action, team physician Phillip Marone said.

Benjamin has been throwing for some time. The key to his return is swinging a bat without pain.

``It's a matter of being able to resist against the ball,'' Benjamin said. ``I've been taking batting practice against a live arm, but not from 60 feet. They started close and back up a little bit everyday. I have to get to the point where they're whipping it in there.

``So far, it's done pretty well. But it's just day to day. I have to push it a little, then see how it feels the next day.''

Benjamin, acquired from San Francisco in an October trade for pitcher Jeff Juden, tore cartilage in his wrist while sliding into second base during an intrasquad game Feb. 28.

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