Wolf's return might prompt a change in the bullpen

Posted: April 09, 2002

Spring training has been over for 10 days, but the Phillies still find themselves facing another roster decision.

With lefthander Randy Wolf ready to come off the disabled list and make his first start of the season Thursday against Atlanta, general manager Ed Wade and company must decide who will be the odd man out.

Relievers Hector Mercado and Carlos Silva are the most likely candidates for one obvious reason: They each have an option remaining.

"I would assume that would be the way we would lean," manager Larry Bowa said. "We're not going to lose a pitcher."

Though neither pitcher has worked enough for a fair decision based on performance, Silva was the better of the two in the first week of the season. Silva, who will turn 23 this month, has allowed one run on five hits and struck out five batters in four innings.

Mercado, a 27-year-old lefthander with more major-league experience than Silva, failed to get an out in his Phillies debut last week in Atlanta but rebounded with a strong outing Saturday, retiring the only two batters he faced.

Bowa said he has not seen enough of Mercado. The lefthander was acquired from Cincinnati during the last week of spring training after being optioned to the minor leagues by the Reds. Bowa would love to have a lefthander to bring in against tough lefthanded hitters such as Barry Bonds, Larry Walker and Todd Helton, but Mercado does not fit that mold.

Lefthanded hitters have a career .278 average against Mercado, while righthanded hitters have batted .257 against him.

Pitching out of trouble. In three appearances, righthander Cliff Politte has allowed nine baserunners - six hits and three walks - in five innings, but he has not yielded a run.

After pitching out of a 10th-inning jam Sunday, Politte picked up the victory in the Phillies' 3-2, 11-inning win over Florida.

"He doesn't make me nervous," Bowa said. "He gets into jams and he gets out of them. He wiggles his way out of them."

Politte acknowledged that he would like to do things differently.

"I've been coming in and letting guys get on base right away," he said. "I'd like to think my location on some of my pitches will get better as the season goes on. I'd like to do the job so [Bowa's] confidence builds in me."

Extra bases. John Vukovich said everything looked good in an MRI examination of his brain yesterday. Eleven months ago yesterday Vukovich underwent surgery to remove part of a benign brain tumor. He missed 40 games while recovering. . . . Righthander Terry Adams will make his second start of the season tonight against Jason Marquis and the Braves. He allowed six runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings and lost to Marquis and Atlanta, 11-2, last week in his Phillies debut at Turner Field. . . . Braves righthander Greg Maddux, sidelined by an inflamed nerve in his lower back, is eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow, but he will not pitch until at least Friday, when the team will be in Florida.

Contact Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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