Phillies' fifth-starter battle undecided
Trying to beat out Happ, Park delivers impressive outing
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The competition for the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation got even more interesting Monday.
Chan Ho Park allowed six hits, two runs (one earned), one walk and struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings in the Phils' 13-3 victory over the Astros at Bright House Field. He is 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 21 1/3 innings in the Grapefruit League.
Park has been impressive, but so has J.A. Happ, who is 0-0 with a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings.
The front-runner? Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee aren't saying.
"We haven't made our minds up yet," Manuel said.
"We're still talking," Dubee said.
They probably have an idea, but they could wait until Happ pitches for the last time this spring Thursday. Left-hander Jamie Moyer also is scheduled to pitch Thursday, but Dubee said he has not decided who will pitch against the Nationals at Bright House Field and who will pitch in a Minor League game.
But this certainly is going to be an interesting decision. Park signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract over the winter. The Phillies liked him as a reliever, but they got him to sign when they agreed to give him an opportunity to win a spot in the rotation.
Park badly wants to start, partially because of national pride. His countrymen in South Korea can watch him pitch more regularly if they know he is going to throw every five days.
"I'm expecting their decision to make me as the starter. That's my goal," Park said. "That's why I signed with this team."
It could be tough to tell Park he is not in the rotation if he finishes the spring having outperformed Happ on the stat sheet.
In 20 innings, Happ has allowed 18 hits, eight runs (seven earned), six walks and four home runs. He has 14 strikeouts. But in 21 1/3 innings, Park has allowed 20 hits, seven runs (six earned), just two walks and one home run. He has 25 strikeouts.
Those are impressive numbers.
Park wouldn't say if he would be open to pitching out of the bullpen.
"I don't know, let's see," he said. "Wait, wait, wait, wait. Sometimes I'm crazy."
But Park has not pitched successfully as a starter since 2001 with the Dodgers. He went 78-51 with a 3.74 ERA in 176 starts from 1994-2001, but is 34-34 with a 5.48 ERA in 104 starts from 2002-08.
Has Park eased concerns he could pitch successfully as a starter?
"I would say he's eased them, but again, Spring Training is not a championship season," Dubee said. "We'll wait to see if he's our fifth or where he fits in our bullpen."
"It comes down to who we think fits the best," Manuel said. "Both of them pitched pretty good."
But only one gets the job.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.