Three weeks from today, baseball will conduct its annual first-year player draft. Once again, teams will take a shot at restocking their minor league cupboards.

To the casual sports fan, the process might not have the cachet of the NFL's draft, even though, for the first time, baseball's version will be carried live on ESPN2.

The Phillies, after losing their No. 1 pick in recent seasons as compensation for signing such free agents as Jim Thome and Jon Lieber, find themselves in a position to address some needs this time around. They have the 19th and 37th picks overall (and four of the top 108) after losing free agent David Dellucci.

And what will they have to choose from?

"It's a pretty good year for high school players," said Mike Arbuckle, assistant general manager, scouting and player development. "There are more high school position players than I've seen in a while and some pretty good college arms.

"I think this is a pretty good year to have some extra picks."

For most of the last decade, the Phils have tended to take as many pitchers as possible. That likely will change next month.

"We'll probably take the best guy available, especially with the extra picks," Arbuckle said. "We think there's enough talent out there that we hope we get some of each. Hopefully, we'll have a chance to do a little stockpiling."

The Phillies are picking late enough in the first round that there's no way to realistically project whom they might end up with. Here are a couple of names to remember, though - players they'd probably be happy to have if they're still on the board when the Phillies' turn comes:

* Righthander Jarrod Parker, Norwell (Ind.) High School. "Lacks size, but opened a lot of eyes by topping out at 98 miles per hour and flashing a plus breaking ball," said Baseball America.

* Catcher Travis d'Arnaud from Lakewood (Calif.) High School.

* Righthander Phillippe Aumont, Ecole du Versant, Gatineau, Quebec. "Best arm to come out of Canada since Adam Loewen," according to Baseball America.

* Lefthander Daniel Moskos, from Clemson.

Instant replay

Brewers catcher Johnny Estrada homered in the ninth to tie the score Tuesday night. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz homered in the bottom of the inning to win it.

Brewers catcher Johnny Estrada homered in the ninth to tie the score Tuesday night. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz homered in the bottom of the inning to win it.

Turns out, quite a bit of dialogue went along with that drama.

"Before Johnny came to the plate in that last inning, he told me, 'I need a big hit.' I said, 'Don't bother. We need to go home,' " Ruiz said.

Estrada confirmed the exchange. "We were kind of joking with each other all night," he said. "Some catchers don't like to talk like that. For a rookie to be that loose, it's impressive. He's not frightened to be playing in the big leagues, playing in Philadelphia."

With Ruiz batting in the ninth, Estrada said: "Why did you let [Brett Myers] throw me that hanging splitter?"

Replied Ruiz, before ending the game with his own homer off Derrick Turnbow: "That's what he wanted to throw."

Injury updates

Assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced yesterday that closer Tom Gordon, who is recovering from pneumonia contracted while he was on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, is expected to be cleared to begin a light exercise program tomorrow.

Assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced yesterday that closer Tom Gordon, who is recovering from pneumonia contracted while he was on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, is expected to be cleared to begin a light exercise program tomorrow.

If all goes well, he'll report to Clearwater, Fla., early next week for a more intensive program that eventually will include throwing. It's still uncertain, however, when he'll begin throwing or when he might be ready to pitch under game conditions.

First baseman Ryan Howard (strained left quadriceps) began running yesterday. Barring setbacks, he'll do a two-game rehab assignment as the designated hitter at Class A Lakewood next Wednesday and Thursday. He's eligible to be activated a week from tomorrow when the Phillies open a weekend series in Atlanta. *