Phillies' De Fratus not sharp in spring outing

Posted: March 17, 2013

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - A slow start to spring training is significantly better than no start to spring training.

Justin De Fratus knows this all too well. A year ago, he arrived at spring training a little sore but still sure he was ready, for the first time in his professional career, to compete for a job in the Phillies' bullpen. Turned out, he wasn't ready for anything.

A sprained right elbow shut him down at the beginning of camp and he pitched in one April rehab game at single-A Clearwater before being shut down again until July 10.

"I can describe it in one word: miserable," De Fratus said Friday before allowing a run in two innings during the Phillies' 3-1, 10-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The run off De Fratus came on a long leadoff home run by Shelley Duncan in the bottom of the seventh inning. Duncan jumped on a first-pitch fastball that De Fratus left in the middle of the plate.

"If I had thrown my slider a little bit better today, the outcome might have been different," De Fratus said. "I'm just trying to throw first-pitch strikes, and that was the fourth straight one I threw. He did his job and hit it."

De Fratus, one of a half-dozen pitchers competing for three bullpen spots, did not impress manager Charlie Manuel even after previously throwing five scoreless innings. The manager said he wants to see better work from a lot of his young relievers.

"[Mike] Adams has been throwing real good, but I think the rest of them have to start getting sharper," Manuel said. "They have to get ready to go. They have to start putting more on the ball and get aggressive and attacking the hitters. I think I know their talent, but their talent still lacks experience."

Regardless of whether De Fratus makes the big-league club, he's still in a much better place now than a year ago. In the middle of his miserable existence last season, the 2007 11th-round draft pick had a conversation with his mother, Dorothy.

"I was really down," De Fratus said. "She said, 'You know, most people in this world, they want to go out and earn what they get.' She could tell I was upset at the fact that I wasn't able to do what I do. You're collecting something that you don't deserve. That really killed me and bothered me. I wasn't helping anybody out. This year, I'm in a much happier mind-set because I'm ready to go."

De Fratus got off to a terrible start this spring, allowing five runs and six hits in his first three innings. Ironically, it may have been because he did not pitch at all last year during spring training. He said he suffered the elbow injury in the offseason when he tried to extend his long-toss sessions too quickly.

"I fully expected myself to have a real shot last year, and I definitely do think that had something to do with it," he said. "I wanted to be in midseason form come Feb. 1, when I usually get down to spring training. I learned a lesson, and I slowed it down a little bit this year. I suffered a little bit in my first few outings because I got absolutely rocked, but I like where I am right now, and that's all I can ask for."

Contact Bob Brookover at Follow on Twitter @brookob.

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