CLEARWATER, Fla. - For the first time in his professional life, Jack Taschner reported to a different organization yesterday morning. It isn't easy being traded near the end of spring training, especially when your wife is eight months pregnant, but Taschner was glad - if somewhat nervous - to join another team.
"It's like the first day of school," he said.
The 30-year-old lefthander endured a miserable spring with the San Francisco Giants, the team that selected him in the second round of the 1999 amateur draft. Taschner was the longest-tenured player in that organization. This year, he has allowed 10 hits and 12 walks, posting a 6.23 earned-run average in 82/3 Cactus League innings. He recently notified the Giants that a change of scenery would be mutually beneficial.
Though Taschner complimented the San Francisco coaching staff yesterday, he said he was ready for a different set of teachers.
"That's what a change of scenery is," he said. "Maybe different terminology that helps you get over something, or [tells you], 'Oh, that's what I'm doing.' "
Taschner attributed his lack of command this spring to the development of a two-seam fastball, a pitch he had never before used in games. He expected the pitch to be ready by opening night. "I'm not missing by a lot," he said.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee watched Taschner throw a bullpen session yesterday morning and said that the lefty showcased his two-seamer. "He's got some work to do on it," Dubee said.
Although Taschner was acquired because the Phillies wanted a lefthander to join Scott Eyre in the bullpen during J.C. Romero's 50-game suspension for violating the league's substance policy, he has actually seen more success against righthanded batters (.247 opponents' batting average) in his career than against lefties (.288).
"With lefties, I'll have great streaks and I'll have absolutely horrendous streaks," he said, adding that he had not yet identified the cause of this issue. "That's why you stay inconsistent, the fact that I haven't made the right adjustment."
Taschner's wife Miriam, pregnant with the couple's second child, was also forced to make an adjustment this weekend.
"She's a trouper," he said. "We decided as a family that we were going to stay together [during her pregnancy], so we had it all planned out for San Francisco, to see a doctor in Arizona," where the Giants train.
But Friday's trade for catcher Ronny Paulino forced the Taschners to scramble, and Miriam flew back to the family home in Appleton, Wis., on Saturday. "I had to help her pack as quick as I could and hop a flight," Taschner said. Now, he will have to make the necessary adjustments - to his repertoire and life - in a new city, with a different team.
Manuel getting antsy. After the Phillies lost to the Boston Red Sox, 3-1, yesterday, a frustrated Charlie Manuel spoke critically and at length about his offense.
"We're not playing good right now," he said. "We're not knocking the runs in, we're not hitting the ball good. I mean, we've got to do better. We're still in the process of getting [Chase] Utley and [Pedro] Feliz and [Shane] Victorino and [Jimmy] Rollins some at-bats. Victorino got behind when he went to the World Baseball thing, he got 19 at-bats or something.
"We've got [Chris] Coste, we've got a whole lot of those guys" who are behind.
"At the start of spring training, that was our goal, to get everybody at-bats to be ready to go when the season starts, and we're running short with some of those guys. It takes you a while to get your timing and get in good playing condition.
"Am I concerned about it? I've been to spring training 40-some years, and I know this: You've got to have at-bats. . . . There's nothing we can do about it."
Blanton's ready. Joe Blanton started the game and allowed two runs on four hits in 61/3 innings. He walked one and struck out four. "Blanton looked good," Manuel said. "He's ready to go."
Cole Hamels, who had originally expected to pitch in the game against Boston, was scheduled to throw in a minor-league game yesterday in Clearwater. The game was rained out, and Hamels will pitch in either a minor-league or Grapefruit League game today.