Ibanez adjusts to life as a Yankee

Posted: March 03, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - He wears navy pinstripes now, and this was an altered reality Raul Ibanez had trouble rationalizing. The first time he put on a Yankees uniform, Ibanez said he looked down and couldn't believe it. Now he's one of them. The pain of being a Phillie and falling short to New York in the 2009 World Series had to end.

"That was my best memory and my worst memory," Ibanez said. "My toughest memory was watching the Yankees celebrate out there. It felt so close that you could touch it."

On Saturday, Ibanez returned to Bright House Field with the Yankees. As he emerged from the visitors dugout for the first time, there were fans who screamed "Raauuulll!" Then he dropped a blooper in left field for a run-scoring double off Cole Hamels in Saturday's 8-5 Yankees victory.

But Ibanez, who signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with New York, used Saturday as a chance to say thanks for three years with the Phillies.

"My time in Philadelphia was nothing short of extraordinary," Ibanez, 39, said. "It's an amazing organization. Great people. Tremendous fans. I have a lot of friends over there. I'm glad to be able to come back and say hello."

Ibanez will mostly serve as a designated hitter against righthanded pitchers for Joe Girardi's Yankees. It's somewhat of a homecoming for Ibanez, who was born in Manhattan.

He said the Phillies had minimal talks about him returning in a reduced role. But there was never a formal offer. Ibanez harbors no hard feelings.

"I'd rather just leave it the way it is," he said. "I'm thankful for the organization and the opportunity I got to play there. There was some talk. It was a reduced role. But again, my biggest thing is I just feel grateful to the organization for having played over there for three years. Great human beings."

New relievers struggle

Both Dontrelle Willis and Chad Qualls were hit around in their spring Phillies debuts. Willis allowed a run on two hits and a walk in his inning. Qualls allowed three runs and three hits.

Willis, bidding for a spot as another lefthanded reliever on the staff, did retire both lefthanded batters he faced.

"Dontrelle looked like he had action to his stuff but a little erratic with his command," pitching coach Rich Dubee said.

Qualls retired the first two batters he saw and then allowed a double, triple and home run in three subsequent at-bats.

"First time out," Charlie Manuel said, "we don't look at that as a whole lot."

De Fratus ready

The word from doctors was favorable for righthanded pitching prospect Justin De Fratus, who will start throwing Monday. Team physician Michael Ciccotti examined De Fratus on Friday and found no structural damage in his sore right elbow. With rest the past two weeks, the team believes they avoided any serious issue.

"I'm pretty optimistic," De Fratus said. "I'm excited."

Because he'll effectively start from scratch on a throwing program, De Fratus' slim chance at making the team out of camp is all but eliminated. The 24-year-old will likely begin at triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Extra bases

Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz were all rested by Manuel but all three took batting practice with the team. They will also not play Sunday against the Yankees. Manuel wants to rest them early in the spring schedule. . . . Hunter Pence and Kevin Frandsen homered for the Phillies. Pence's blast was in the first inning off Yankees starter Ivan Nova. . . . Roy Halladay starts Sunday in Tampa, Fla., against the Yankees.

Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.