Just days left, uncertainty hitting Phils where it hurts

Posted: March 28, 2007

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Pat Gillick's top concern this week is not Pat Burrell's swing.

It's the Phillies' health.

"We want to get healthy," the team's general manager said Sunday. "We were pretty healthy until the last week. We have a few nicks and bruises, so consequently this last week we need most of our people that are nicked up to get healthy."

The Phillies, who beat the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, last night at Bright House Networks Field, have just five more days for everyone to heal up. Their season opener, against the Atlanta Braves, is scheduled for Monday at Citizens Bank Park.

Here are the wounded:

Freddy Garcia (right biceps tendinitis): He threw 30 fastballs in the bullpen yesterday and will be reevaluated today. The Phillies still have Garcia on schedule to pitch in the April 6-8 series against the Florida Marlins in Miami, but he could open the season on the disabled list. (That would allow the Phillies to carry an extra pitcher or hitter through April 6.)

"He looked OK," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "We'll see where he is tomorrow. We'll see how he responds. He's feeling better, which is good. He popped some balls."

Jon Lieber (strained right abdominal muscle): He is scheduled to play catch today, but appears headed to the disabled list. That means righthanders Clay Condrey and Jim Ed Warden could open the season in the bullpen unless the Phillies make a move.

Lieber "is progressing pretty well," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We are hopeful but not optimistic" about his being ready by Monday.

Lieber, who injured his oblique muscle last week while swinging a bat, has not been in the best mood since he was moved to the bullpen. Asked when he thought he would need to throw off the mound to be ready to start the season, he said, "You'll have to talk to Pat or Charlie [Manuel]. I have no idea."

Geoff Geary (sore left hamstring): He pitched a perfect eighth inning last night against the Reds. The reliever, who had not pitched since March 15, is expected to be ready for the opener.

"I'm doing everything possible to get prepared," Geary said before the exhibition game. "I threw a bullpen [session] two days ago, and I felt good. I tried to throw as hard as I could just to see. It wasn't exactly where I wanted the ball to go, but I tested my hamstring, and it felt fine."

Chris Coste (sore right hamstring): The backup catcher was the designated hitter in a minor-league game yesterday in Tampa. He went 1 for 7. "I would categorize Coste the same way as Lieber," Amaro said.

Carlos Ruiz (right biceps tendinitis): The catcher also played in a minor-league game in Tampa. He went 3 for 7 with two doubles and three RBIs as a DH.

"It looks like Ruiz is progressing a little quicker than Coste is," Amaro said. "Ruiz threw, took BP, and I think he got a few knocks. We're hopeful that he'll be ready."

The Phillies can backdate the placement of players on the disabled list to March 22. For example, they could start the season with Garcia on the disabled list. Amaro said Garcia could be activated no earlier than April 7, which is probably the soonest he would pitch anyway.

Burrell's struggles. Burrell entered last night hitting .178 (8 for 45) with two homers and seven RBIs, but he went 2 for 4 with a homer and two RBIs against the Reds.

"We've got him bent over a little more, and we're getting more weight on his back side," Manuel said. "I think that's where his foot bothered him before: He had trouble keeping his weight on his back side. We're working at that. It might take him a little while to really start feeling better and get it, but he's trying. He's working at it. I think he'll come around."

Burrell is a career .275 hitter in April, which is the leftfielder's best month other than May (.290).

Phillies 6, Reds 2. Lefthander Jamie Moyer (3.42 ERA) allowed eight hits and two runs in seven innings. He walked two and struck out five. Closer Tom Gordon (1.35 ERA) threw a scoreless ninth. . . . Jimmy Rollins (.364), Wes Helms (.368) and Greg Dobbs (.389) each had two hits. . . . Aaron Rowand (.177) tripled. . . . Howard (.203) went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. "It didn't go anywhere," Manuel said of Howard's swing. "Maybe he'll start on opening day." . . . The Phillies improved to 10-16-2 after scoring three runs off lefthander Rheal Cormier in the seventh inning.

Blood drive. The Phillies plan a blood drive today at Citizens Bank Park in honor of Andrew DiJoseph of Clementon, a team employee in need of A-negative blood and a kidney transplant.

The drive will be held from 2 to 7 p.m. at the stadium's Hall of Fame Club. For information on American Red Cross blood drives, call 1-800-448-3543 or visit www.pleasegiveblood.org.

Extra bases. The Phillies had the radar gun on Toronto Blue Jays righthander Francisco Rosario yesterday at Knology Park in Dunedin. Rosario is out of options, so if he doesn't make the Jays' opening-day roster, he would need to clear waivers before Toronto could send him to the minors. Rosario has a 3.38 ERA in seven appearances this spring. . . . Phillies righthander Brett Myers is scheduled to make his final start before opening day against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays this afternoon in Clearwater.

Contact staff writer Todd Zolecki

at 215-854-4874 or tzolecki@phillynews.com.

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