CLEARWATER, Fla. - With Cliff Lee out for the foreseeable future after being placed on the 60-day disabled list yesterday afternoon, 3 weeks before Opening Day, the Phillies were in need of some good news on the starting rotation front. They got some earlier in the day.
Aaron Harang threw a bullpen session yesterday morning and gave himself the green light to jump back into the spring starting rotation Thursday night in Tampa against the New York Yankees (7:05, ESPN).
The righthander has already had two of his spring starts scratched with back issues. His most recent start was scheduled for last Saturday in Lakeland.
Following his bullpen session yesterday, Harang said he still has plenty of time to be ready for the start of the regular season.
"It's frustrating, but it's not as frustrating if this was later in camp," Harang said. "I don't view this as any type of setback. I can progress through and catch up on my innings very easily. Just talking with [pitching coach Bob McClure], trying to figure out the best way to build up and be ready. It's not that hard for me to know what I need to do."
The 36-year-old Harang likely will throw two to three innings Thursday. He could have as many as three more starts (after Thursday) before the regular season, with two more in the Grapefruit League and an additional in the on-deck series at Citizens Bank Park on Easter weekend, just before Opening Day.
Harang, who signed a 1-year, $5 million deal this winter as a free agent, said he and the Phillies' training staff are simply "being smart" this spring.
"[We're] being cautious," Harang said. "There's no reason to push this because you don't want it to linger on."
Harang is currently in line to replace Lee in the second slot behind Cole Hamels in the rotation. Jerome Williams and David Buchanan are favorites for the next two spots, with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Kevin Slowey among others in camp competing for a starting job.
Chad Billingsley, who has undergone two elbow surgeries in the last 2 years, could be ready at some point in April. But clearly, starting pitching depth is not a strong spot for the Phillies without Lee.
"That's one of the reasons we signed a guy like Billingsley and traded for Joely Rodriguez and some of the other young players in our minor league camp, that at some point some of those guys would be available for that starting pitching depth that we're looking for," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "There will be some guys battling for some of those jobs at the back end and we'll go from there. Somebody's going to have to pitch for us. Somebody's going to have to be one of the five guys in the rotation. We'll work this spring to develop somebody who can do this job."
Roy Halladay arrived at Bright House Field yesterday, but will not begin his role as a spring training instructor until later this month.
The former Phillies pitcher and two-time Cy Young Award winner still plans to pursue a career in sports psychology. Earlier in his career, Halladay developed a friendship with Harvey Dorfman, the author of "The Mental ABC's of Pitching," and credits Dorfman, who passed away 4 years ago, for helping him get the most out of his natural talent.
Halladay, 37, said he's more likely to go that route with his own career, rather than jump back into uniform as a coach.
"Mental fortitude, an awareness, that extra edge - that's what Harvey taught was so valuable, and really I feel more of a responsibility to share what I learned from him than anything," Halladay said. "There is nobody out there teaching the way he taught or the principles he taught. It's so basic. It is a weapon. It is absolutely a weapon."
Halladay is planning to enroll in psychology classes at the University of South Florida.
The Phillies made their first round of cuts before taking the field for pregame stretch yesterday morning. With major league pitchers uploading their inning total with each appearance, the majority of players sent to minor league camp were starting pitchers.
Former first-round pick Jesse Biddle was among six players sent to the other end of the Carpenter Complex.
Biddle, who threw two shutout innings against the Rays on Friday, was optioned to minor league camp along with fellow lefthander Adam Morgan, righthander Ethan Martin and outfielder Aaron Altherr. Non-roster righthander Sean O'Sullivan, who made two starts for the Phillies last year, was reassigned to minor league camp, along with catcher John Hester, who underwent knee surgery last week. Following yesterday's 16-4 loss to Baltimore, righthanders Seth Rosin and Mike Nesseth were also reassigned to minor league camp.
"They're going to get their work in, get innings, get at-bats," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "For some of the guys, [major league camp] was a good taste for them and a good experience . . . They all go down with plans, suggestions to work on."
The Phillies also released outfielder Xavier Paul yesterday.
Cole Hamels served up a three-run home run to Baltimore's Chris Davis as the Orioles routed the Phillies and their ace, 16-4.
Hamels allowed five runs in two innings; of the 14 batters he faced, eight reached base on hits or walks. He allowed four extra-base hits.
"I have a goal every spring training to try to get a 10.00 ERA, so, I think I'm doing pretty well and I think I've done pretty well in my career," said Hamels, who went 3-6 with a 6.70 ERA in his first three major league spring trainings. "But, no, I think I've gotten over that fact over the course of a couple spring trainings. You know not to let that affect you, I have a certain agenda and that's what I'm going to stick to no matter what the results are."
Hamels said he was working on fastball command yesterday.
Domonic Brown was scratched from yesterday's lineup because of dehydration. Brown is batting .259 (7-for-27) with one extra-base hit (a double) in 10 games this spring . . . Chase Utley went 1-for-3 with a run scored as the designated hitter. Ryne Sandberg said Utley's first start at second base could be "right around the corner." Utley missed the first 10 Grapefruit League games while rehabbing from a sprained right ankle . . . Jerome Williams and David Buchanan are both scheduled to pitch this afternoon (1:05 p.m., CSN) in Clearwater against the Tampa Bay Rays. Alex Cobb is on tap to start for Tampa.