Phillies Notes: Ailing starters a concern for Phillies

Jonathan Pettibone throws while pitching coach Bob McClure captures it on a cell-phone camera. Cautious optimism followed Pettibone's Friday workout. DAVID MAILALETTI / Staff
Jonathan Pettibone throws while pitching coach Bob McClure captures it on a cell-phone camera. Cautious optimism followed Pettibone's Friday workout. DAVID MAILALETTI / Staff
Posted: March 02, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Circumstances dictated that Ruben Amaro Jr. pay close attention Friday morning to Jonathan Pettibone. A gaggle of Phillies officials watched their presumptive sixth starter throw a shortened bullpen for the first time since being injected in his right shoulder with cortisone. Cautious optimism prevailed.

Ethan Martin, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, walked past Amaro as Pettibone completed his test. The general manager patted Martin, who departed for a doctor's appointment, on the right shoulder.

"Good luck, dude," Amaro said.

The Phillies, two weeks into spring training, are reduced to crossing fingers. They do not possess a stockpile of starting depth, and it has only dwindled.

Cole Hamels entered camp behind everyone else and could miss two starts. Pettibone and Martin were injured before the two-week mark. Adam Morgan underwent offseason shoulder surgery.

Miguel Gonzalez was scheduled to start Saturday against the Yankees, but David Buchanan's name replaced the Cuban's on the lineup card. Gonzalez will pitch in relief because pitching coach Bob McClure wants to ease his new pitcher into action.

No team survives a season using just five starting pitchers; the major-league average last season was 10.3 per team. A month before opening day, there are overwhelming questions about the Phillies' options.

Pettibone, 23, cannot shake a shoulder ailment that prohibited him from pitching the last two months of 2013. He followed a rigorous rehab program but the injury lingered into this spring. He did not appear to throw at maximum effort Friday.

"That was the first stepping-stone," he said afterward. "Now it's game on."

His confidence will be met with skepticism because Pettibone believed in late January he overcame the shoulder issue. That was soon proven wrong.

Martin received an MRI exam Friday, Amaro said, but the results were not immediately available. He threw no harder than 85 m.p.h. - or 12 m.p.h. below his max velocity - on Thursday. He complained of pain in the rear of his right shoulder.

The Phillies must hope for a similar prognosis to Pettibone's. The righthander thinks he could throw a few more bullpens, face some hitters, and jump into Grapefruit League action. He expects to be ready for April. Time will tell if that optimism is realistic.

"I feel pretty good," Pettibone said.

Tampa showcase

The Yankees will unleash their three aces - CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka - in Saturday's game against the Phillies in Tampa, Fla. Tanaka, the Japanese sensation signed to a seven-year, $155 million contract, will make his American debut.

"It's early," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I guess it's a little bit of a gauge where our hitters are at."

Extra bases

Jimmy Rollins launched a three-run homer off Jose Valdez, who pitched in single-A ball last season. He twice walked and scored two runs. . . . Detroit used a split squad composed of mostly minor-leaguers in its 10-6 loss.

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