Bill Conlin | That's Kyle Kendrick to the rescue

Posted: July 02, 2007

IN ANOTHER century, the Sunday pitchers used to be named Carlton and Seaver,

Koufax and Marichal, Clemens and Guidry. Many Sundays they faced each other.

Yesterday, the 12th sellout of the season in the Money Pit was treated to Pelfrey and Kendrick. Floundering Mets "A List" prospect Mike Pelfrey had been flown in from New Orleans for the emergency start when

Odalis Perez was scratched. Charlie

Manuel responded with a "veteran.'' Double A dandy Kyle Kendrick was 2-0 in three previous starts, and had been more than adequate in each. Yesterday, Double-K was Special-K.

With the Phillies' season flashing before their eyes, with a dirge-inviting, E-A-G-L-E-S chanting, four-game sweep imminent, Kendrick came up huge, throwing doubleplay grounders like some sinkerballing veteran. What the kid lacks in velocity, he makes up in movement and the guts to throw a quality strike in a big count. Unfortunately, Kyle only comes around once each

5 days. When Manuel brought in J.C. Romero because he didn't like the seventh-inning, two-out matchup of Kendrick and stone fastball-hitting pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee, he was lustily booed.

It was the right move. Ledee kills low-90s fastballs. Willie

Randolph countered Romero with Damion Easley, who bounced out on the first pitch. Take that, Cholly Bashers.

So, thanks to Kendrick and an offense revived somewhat during a life-prolonging, 5-3, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the Phillies now have both hands back on the precipice and the rain has let up a little. Instead of seven games behind the Mets (eight in the loss column) and two behind the second-place Braves, there was a glimmer of sunshine.

OK, it was only the wink from a throwaway flashlight, but it was something bright, right?

The good news came in cascades before the Phillies expanded a 3-2 lead with a boisterous finish against the Baja Wagner portion of the Mets' bullpen.

Freddy Garcia has been green-lighted to begin soft-tossing today, 2 weeks into his most excellent Clearwater visit. And isn't

soft-tossing what the $10 million righthander with the labrum

"pathology'' and "fraying'' of the rotator cuff was doing all along? Garcia could return some time

after the All-Star break. Which All-Star break is not clear.

J.A. Happ, Saturday's emergency starter, has been mercifully

returned to Triple A Ottawa to resume his pitching education. And somebody named Anderson Garcia - or is it Garcia Anderson? - has been added to the weary south end of the bullpen.

It is unclear when Brett Myers will make his next Comcast

appearance - the one where he is showing pitching coach Rich Dubee where the right arm hurts. Then they walk to the clubhouse. It appears the accidental closer is more month-to-month than week-to-week, although the manager still points into the haze of a post All-Star return for Brett.

Finally, Tom Gordon is

expected to make an actual

rehab appearance this week in Clearwater. Flash, disabled since May 4 (retroactive to May 2), is approaching the 2-month mark in one of baseball history's slowest-healing rotator cuff "strains.''

In case you're just dying to see all these lame-armed pitchers back in the fray - pun intended - be careful what you wish for. It's not as if Manuel will be

getting back Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera and Trevor

Hoffman when the Traumatized Trio pick up their fifes, drums and bandages and rejoin their bloody but unbowed mates.

Gordon had blown three of eight save attempts and had allowed 12 hits in 9 1/3 innings.

Myers displayed devastating stuff but still was settling into the fierce rhythm that defines a great closer when he grabbed at that sudden stab behind his shoulder. That happened against the Marlins 40 days ago. Calling the injury a "strain'' may be a stretch. But throwing with a healing shoulder injury is like running with a healing ankle injury. Rest is best.

Garcia will come back to pitch in more pain and with similar

ineffectiveness - unless he can be convinced that his best money shot is surgery and a full recovery. The guy is betting against long odds that he will be able to perform a few smoke-and-mirrors miracles and land a free-agent contract from a general manager as careless as the Phillies were in accepting "Scout's Honor'' from the White Sox.

The season will be defined for the Phillies in the next 16 games of a brutal schedule turn. They go to Houston with no day off after the weekend, then to Colorado

followed by the All-Star break. Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and

deserving Aaron Rowand will go to San Francisco. After the break, the Phils will play the Cardinals here, then visit Los Angeles and San Diego. Some of the Coast pitching matchups figure to be mismatchups. Thirteen of the next 16 on the road and west of the Mississippi . . .

But the crusty old manager bulled his neck at the disaster

inference and said this: "What I've got is what I've got. And what I've got is what I'll use.'' *

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