Looks as if Madson will be setting up Gordon

Posted: March 29, 2007

CLEARWATER, Fla. - When pitchers and catchers first gathered at the Carpenter Complex 6 weeks ago, there two avenues by which the Phillies could improve their bullpen.

One was a trade. Well, that hasn't happened so far.

The other was for some of the relievers in camp to take a step forward. For the most part, that's also been a road less-traveled.

The exception is righthander Ryan Madson. After an inauspicious start, he has steadily improved. He has a 1.86 earned run average and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last seven outings, covering 8 2/3 innings.

A week ago, Charlie Manuel said he couldn't name the reliever he'll use to set up closer Tom Gordon. Now he can.

"When you look at our bullpen, he's the ideal guy for the eighth inning," the manager said. "And he's also a guy who could step in and close for us if we needed."

As a rookie in 2004, Madson had a 1.65 earned run average in 51 relief appearances. The following year he made 78 appearances, but his ERA rose to 4.14. Last year he shuttled between the bullpen and the rotation (17 starts) and mastered neither as his ERA ballooned to 5.69.

So coming into this season, Madson was told two things. One was that he should focus on being a reliever. The other was that he should junk his big curve in favor of a cutter. And the results so far have been impressive.

"It's better [working out of the bullpen]. I don't have to prove anything to anybody," Madson said. "And the cutter is working good. I'm getting more comfortable with it."

And just maybe he's pitching with a little chip on his shoulder, which isn't a bad thing.

"I don't think we're one of the worst bullpens in the league," he said. "Far from it."

If he keeps pitching as well as he has, he just might be right.

My, oh, Myers

Opening Day starter Brett Myers ended his spring with a flourish yesterday, shutting out the Devil Rays on three hits through six innings at Bright House Networks Field. He walked two and struck out seven.

Opening Day starter Brett Myers ended his spring with a flourish yesterday, shutting out the Devil Rays on three hits through six innings at Bright House Networks Field. He walked two and struck out seven.

"I think I'm ready," he said after finishing the Grapefruit League with a 2.04 ERA.

Myers, 26, could be poised for a breakout season, but he won't talk about personal goals.

"I just want the team to win every game that I start," he said. "I know that's not realistic, but if I start 34 times I'd like us to win at least 25 of them."

Trying to bunt, Myers was hit on the left shoulder by a pitch from Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir his first time up. Bunting again in the fifth, he was knocked off the plate by reliever Brian Stokes and exchanged words with the pitcher after completing the sacrifice.

"I was pretty irritated," he admitted.

He didn't let his emotions get the better of him, though. "I wasn't going to hit a guy and get somebody hurt," he said. "I get more out of just striking them out instead. But I didn't mind putting the thought in their heads."

Phillies 9, Devil Rays 2

Jimmy Rollins continued his torrid spring, reaching base all three times he came to the plate with a single, double and a walk. That raised his batting average to .386 and his on-base percentage to .493.

Jimmy Rollins continued his torrid spring, reaching base all three times he came to the plate with a single, double and a walk. That raised his batting average to .386 and his on-base percentage to .493.

Defending NL MVP Ryan Howard, who is batting .203, was given a day off.

The Phillies' second straight win raised their Grapefruit League record to 11-16-2.

Phillers

Righthanders Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber threw yesterday. Garcia (biceps tendinitis) played long toss and Lieber (pulled ribcage muscle) played catch from 90 feet. "Garcia felt pretty good," reported pitching coach Rich Dubee. "And Lieber was good, too." Both pitchers are expected to open the season on the disabled list, however . . . The Florida portion of spring training ends today with a game against the Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. J.A. Happ will start against Pirates righthander Shawn Chacon. *

Righthanders Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber threw yesterday. Garcia (biceps tendinitis) played long toss and Lieber (pulled ribcage muscle) played catch from 90 feet. "Garcia felt pretty good," reported pitching coach Rich Dubee. "And Lieber was good, too." Both pitchers are expected to open the season on the disabled list, however . . . The Florida portion of spring training ends today with a game against the Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. J.A. Happ will start against Pirates righthander Shawn Chacon. *

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