Phillies Notes: Thome, Contreras are slated to play in minor-league game

Jim Thome will play four or five innings at first base on Monday to hone his defensive game.
Jim Thome will play four or five innings at first base on Monday to hone his defensive game. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 12, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Two 40-somethings will invade Phillies minor-league camp Monday.

Jose Contreras is scheduled to pitch in a minor-league game, marking his first game action of the spring. And Jim Thome will play four or five innings at first base for the first time this spring.

Contreras is recovering from elbow surgery last September, and Phillies officials believe the 40-year-old Cuban can be ready for opening day. Exactly how ready will be the imperative question. The Phillies have padded his throwing schedule with extra days.

Contreras pitched eight times in 20 days last April before needing time on the disabled list. During that period, he appeared on back-to-back days twice. That's a workload that could be significantly reduced in an attempt to keep him around longer.

As for Thome, manager Charlie Manuel wants him to hone his defensive game in the low-pressure environment at minor-league camp.

The Phillies are hopeful Thome can play in the field occasionally but they must discover how feasible the idea is. Thome has played only 20 innings in the field the last six years.

Kendrick sharp

If you want to know the main reason why the Phillies felt comfortable giving Kyle Kendrick a two-year, $7.5 million contract extension at the start of spring training, look no further than his ability to retire lefthanded hitters in 2011 when he had by far his best season in the big leagues.

That had been Kendrick's albatross during the first four seasons of his big-league career. Lefties batted .320 with 39 home runs against him going into last season, but the 27-year-old righthander developed a sharp cutter to complement his sinker and he held lefties to a .234 average last season.

With the Phillies playing one of their two exhibitions against the New York Yankees on Sunday in Tampa, Fla., Kendrick got a chance to start a Grapefruit League game against a lineup that included Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, two of the most dangerous left-handed hitters in baseball.

In three scoreless innings, Kendrick retired Cano twice and used a backdoor cutter to catch Teixeira looking at a called third strike in the bottom of the first during the Phillies' 3-0 loss to the Yankees.

"It's a big pitch," said Kendrick, who has thrown five scoreless innings this spring. "If you can throw it to lefties, it's tough for them to look for it. It's been huge for me and it feels great. It's fun to pitch with more than one pitch."

Extra bases

Most of the Phillies regulars stayed home for a 4-4 tie with Detroit. After the game, Manuel was peeved about his team's inability to execute. He didn't single a player out by name, but Juan Pierre struck out on a foul bunt with two runners on and no outs in the fifth inning. Pierre stranded six in an 0-for-5 game. . . . Domonic Brown appeared in a game for the first time in six days after spraining his right thumb. He popped out in his only at-bat. . . . Lefty candidate Jake Diekman pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. . . . The Phillies are making J.C. Ramirez, a righthander who started 26 games at double-A Reading last year, into a reliever. Ramirez was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade and is on the 40-man roster.

Contact Matt Gelb


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