WASHINGTON - Yesterday brought some unwelcome news for 23-year-old righthander Vance Worley. The Phillies informed him that they were optioning him back to Triple A Lehigh Valley, marking the second time this month he has been called up and sent down.
"We want him to get down there and start pitching and get back to where he was when he was throwing the ball real good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He'll be on a regular turn and he'll get stretched out and he'll get his pitch count built up."
Worley turned in two strong starts after Joe Blanton (elbow) went on the disabled list in late-April, holding the Mets to two hits in six scoreless innings and the Nationals to four hits and one run in six innings. His combined numbers in those two starts - 12 innings, six hits, four walks, 12 strikeouts, one run - were impressive. But Blanton returned, forcing Worley to the bullpen. After two appearances as a reliever - he pitched a scoreless inning in one outing and allowed a run, two walks and two hits in three innings in another - the Phillies sent him back down to Lehigh Valley.
Worley started just once for the IronPigs before Blanton went back on the disabled list, opening the door for his return to the big-league roster. But he struggled with his command in starts against the Reds and the Mets, walking four in eight innings and throwing 94 of 164 pitches for strikes.
In a 9-5 loss to New York on Sunday, he allowed eight runs, five earned, on 12 hits with one strikeout in three innings.
"Just get some innings under your belt, and everything will work itself out," Worley said. "There's things I need to work on anyway. It's kind of a work in progress, just a matter of what role I'm in. I'm fine with it and I know what I need to do and I'll be back in a start or two."
Manuel said the Phillies have not decided on their rotation beyond the off day on Thursday. They could go without a fifth starter until June 7. But they could also use the day off to give each member of the rotation an extra day of rest after a stretch of 20 games in 20 days.
Manuel said former starter Kyle Kendrick, who has spent most of the season in the bullpen, could take Worley's place. The Phillies have a doubleheader in 2 weeks against the Marlins, which could open the door for Worley's return.
In the fourth inning, the Phillies got back-to-back home runs from Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez, the first of which came on an inside pitch that tailed back over the plate just enough for Howard to send it into the centerfield seats for his 12th of the season. Ibanez' eighth came on a hanging breaking ball. It was the first time this year the Phils hit back-to-back homers.
Ryan Madson retired the Nationals in order in the ninth, including strikeouts of Alex Cora and Rick Ankiel, to improve to 12-for-12 in save opportunities. Jose Contreras and Antonio Bastardo combined to pitch a scoreless eighth . . . Shane Victorino (hamstring) is scheduled to play in rehab games at Double A Reading today, tomorrow and Thursday before meeting the Phillies in Pittsburgh, at which point he is expected to be activated . . . Brad Lidge (rotator cuff) is scheduled to pitch in an extended-spring-training game today.
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