CLEARWATER, Fla. - This off-season, Andrew Carpenter decided to resume exercises to strengthen his right arm that he last did four years ago in college.
When he was at Long Beach State, his fastball hit 94 m.p.h. Now it hovers between 88 and 92 m.p.h., and Carpenter is looking for any sort of extra edge that could prolong his next major-league stay beyond 21 days.
But Carpenter isn't kidding himself. He - like most around him - knows what kind of pitcher he is.
"He's not going to blow people away," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "But he may trick them."
Carpenter, 24, is a control pitcher and always will be, even if he can add a little velocity to his fastball. He came to camp this spring as an outside contender for the fifth starter's job with a likely ticket to triple A to become Lehigh Valley's ace.
But Carpenter, who said he would become a long man in the bullpen if the Phillies had a need, said he understands the bigger picture. Rarely does a team go through a season using just five or six starting pitchers.
"True," Carpenter said yesterday. "Very true."
So this spring is another chance for him to make an impression on the Phillies' brass. After two appearances, Carpenter has impressed. He has thrown five scoreless innings and allowed just two hits. More important, he has struck out four and walked none.
"I feel really good this spring so far," Carpenter said. "Each spring I've progressed a little bit. Usually I'm off to a slow start, but this year I'm on a pretty hot start."
The former second-round draft pick spent one day with the Phillies in 2008 and pitched a scoreless inning in relief.
Last season, he made his first major-league start in May and won in a rain-shortened game in Washington. He made two more relief appearances in late July before going back to triple A.
Carpenter has spent 21 days as a major-leaguer. With the chances few and far between during that time, Carpenter said his control suffered when he finally got on the mound.
If that continues, Carpenter will not survive in the majors, Manuel said.
"He has to use all his pitches and have good command," Manuel said. "That's the kind of pitcher he is. That's what's going to help him pitch in the big leagues."
Carpenter said his primary concern heading into the spring was his change-up, something that has been problematic his entire career. He calls his change-up a "mild fastball" simply because he doesn't throw very hard to begin with. He said he is still searching for the right grip to his change-up that will find the right variance between speeds.
Carpenter said he spoke with Ryan Madson, who is situated in the locker next to Carpenter's, about his change-up.
"He has a great change-up," Carpenter said. "I'm trying to figure out how he throws it."
Paul Hoover caught Carpenter at Lehigh Valley last season, when Carpenter went 11-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 24 starts. Carpenter walked 2.7 batters per nine innings, and Hoover said Carpenter's split-finger fastball is an out pitch.
And Hoover paid a control pitcher the ultimate compliment, calling him consistent.
"He fills up the zone," Hoover said. "If he makes a mistake, he doesn't throw extremely hard, so he can get away with it. He has to locate his fastball and be precise with it. He can get away with pitches here and there [in the minors]. But at the big-league level, that pitch is going to get hit a little bit.
"He needs to catch a break, hopefully, if not with this team, some other team will give him a chance to pitch every fifth day and see what he can do."
It will likely take an injury within the Phillies' starting rotation for Carpenter to pitch every fifth day. Until then, he will try to show he's a viable option if called upon.
"If I get sent down, I have to just keep doing my thing," Carpenter said. "Hopefully, I get that call at some point, and I stay up for longer than a couple days or a week."