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Hyatt to start first exhibition game

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Three days before Grapefruit League play begins, the Phillies will play Major League Baseball's first exhibition game of the 2012 spring. And starting that game against Florida State University is righthander Austin Hyatt.

The Phillies typically reward one of their younger starters in camp with the first start. Last spring it was Drew Naylor. The Australian later underwent Tommy John surgery, so that's a fine omen.

Hyatt, 25, had an excellent season for double-A Reading in 2011. He posted a 3.85 ERA in 28 starts with 171 strikeouts and 49 walks in 154 1/3 innings. He's likely headed to triple-A Lehigh Valley and is the only homegrown starter ahead of the Baby Aces that's worth mentioning.

A few Phillies people have compared Hyatt's stuff to that of Kyle Kendrick, with more strikeout prowess. Hyatt doesn't have overpowering stuff, but "sneaks up on you," said one evaluator. So the Phillies will see how that fares in triple A, and maybe he provides starting depth.

Behind Hyatt on Wednesday are a bunch of young arms scheduled to pitch:

Jake Diekman
Jeremy Horst
Michael Schwimer
Joe Savery
J.C. Ramirez
B.J. Rosenberg
Phillippe Aumont

The Phillies' Grapefruit League opener is a week from Saturday against the Yankees in Clearwater. The next day, the two teams play again in Tampa, Fla. Both games are being televised nationally on MLB Network.

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