Sluggish spring for Phils ends with Dice-K visit

Posted: April 01, 2007

The Phillies yesterday concluded an exhibition season that was south of Mediocrityville.

With a 7-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox and Japanese righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka at chilly Citizens Bank Park, the Phils ended with an 11-18-3 exhibition record and a 5.35 team ERA.

For the second straight game, a Phils starter was shakier than deputy Barney Fife in an Andy Griffith Show rerun. Adam Eaton allowed six runs in three innings and finished the spring 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA. This came on the heels of Cole Hamels (1-3, 6.10 this spring) serving four homers in Friday's 6-5 loss to Boston.

Eaton "had trouble with his command and couldn't establish his breaking ball, but his fastball was good," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Manuel said he was confident in his starting rotation - which begins the year with Freddy Garcia (11.42 spring ERA) and Jon Lieber (1.13 spring ERA) on the disabled list - and that it "has a chance to be much better than last year. It's more established than last year."

The Phils' poor exhibition record doesn't concern Manuel.

"I did not want us to peak in spring training," he said.

"Everyone is making a big deal about spring training. Spring training doesn't matter," said defending NL MVP Ryan Howard, who hit .221 with 25 strikeouts in the exhibitions. "When the lights come on and the starting lineups are announced on April 2, the whole feel will change."

"We got through the dog days of spring training and we're ready to move on," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who batted .371 this spring.

While Manuel and most of the Phils have been preaching about the importance of getting off to a strong start, Rollins downplayed that notion.

"It's not about a quick start; it's about playing focused for 162 games," he said.

The Phils will have a noon workout today and will open the season tomorrow afternoon against visiting Atlanta, which went 18-12 this spring.

Dice-K mania. With dozens of Japanese media members watching, Boston's Matsuzaka needed 82 pitches to labor through four innings yesterday.

Using a deliberate, herky-jerky motion, Matsuzaka allowed three runs in four innings; he struck out seven, walked four and served up a two-run homer to Pat Burrell.

"To be honest, I thought he would throw harder and have better command," Manuel said.

Myers ready. Brett Myers, the anointed ace, is noticeably slimmer and seems more easy-going and relaxed than in previous seasons.

Will that translate into a breakout year?

"I want to step up and be the guy that the people in the visiting dugout say, 'Oh, we got Myers today,' " the 26-year-old righthander said.

Myers, who is aiming for 20 wins and thinks 90 to 95 victories is a realistic goal for the club, will get the chance to make the Braves feel uncomfortable when he faces veteran John Smoltz in tomorrow afternoon's opener at sold-out Citizens Bank Park. Myers called it "an honor" to get the opening-day start.

Decision time. The Phils will make final roster moves by 3 p.m. today. Among the decisions: whether to put catcher Chris Coste on the DL.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi

at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.

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