Bush eager to prove himself to Phillies
Right-hander seeks roster spot with hometown team this year
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- One of the best experiences of Dave Bush's baseball career came against the team he watched countless times as a kid at Veterans Stadium.
He beat the Phillies in Game 3 of the 2008 National League Division Series.
The Phillies beat the Brewers in the series, and they ultimately won the World Series, but Bush -- who grew up in Berwyn, Pa., and attended Conestoga High School -- still savors his first and only shot at the postseason. He is hoping to experience more October baseball next time, possibly as a member of the Phillies.
Bush, who allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings Thursday in a 5-4 victory over the Pirates in a Grapefruit League game at Bright House Field, is in camp on a Minor League contract and is expected to open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
But he hopes for another opportunity to pitch in the big leagues.
"It's been fun being in a Phillies uniform," Bush said. "It doesn't really impact what I do or what I'm trying to do, but away from the field, I'm sure my parents think it's pretty cool, and my friends think it's pretty cool. But I show up here, get dressed and go out and do my work. It doesn't really matter what I'm wearing. It's good. It's the team I grew up rooting for, so I think that always holds a place in a fan's heart."
Bush went 8-13 with a 4.54 ERA in 32 appearances (31 starts) in 2010 for the Brewers, but he could not find a starting job before the 2011 season and signed with the Rangers. He shuttled between the bullpen and rotation, one time going nearly two weeks between appearances, finishing 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in 17 appearances (three starts) before the Rangers released him before the All-Star break. He signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs shortly thereafter, but used the out clause in his contract when the Cubs said they had no intentions of having him pitch in the big leagues.
He signed a Minor League contract with the Phillies last August, finishing 1-2 with a 3.91 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
"I had a good experience in Lehigh last year," said Bush, explaining why he re-signed with the Phillies in the offseason. "That definitely helped. I kind of bounced around a little bit for a couple months last year and came here at the end of the year and pitched well. I was pretty comfortable there. The Phillies showed interest pretty early in the offseason about re-signing [me] to a Minor League deal. I knew I was going to have to take a deal like that. The interest they showed, the experience I had last year, it's a little closer to home for my family, so it's a little easier for them to get to."
Bush, who spends his offseasons in Maine, believes he can regain his prior form if he gets into a routine.
"I think the biggest thing in Triple-A last year was just getting a chance to start regularly," he said. "I was pitching inconsistently and erratically in Texas. I just didn't get into a good rhythm. When I went down to Triple-A, I was just looking for an opportunity to pitch regularly and try to get a feel for my pitches the way I had in the past. I felt like I lost that a little bit in the beginning of the year, so just a chance to get back into a routine and show I can still pitch the way I used to."
"It was an opportunity that I wanted to keep throwing. I guess I could have just sat home the rest of the summer, but I knew I could still pitch, and I had to show that I still wanted to do it."
Said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel: "He has to be fine. He has to have his command. He knows that. He's a pitcher. I don't know how much work he needs, but he's smart and knows how to pitch."
Bush will have to pitch well to get back to the big leagues with the Phillies. He also will need a spot to open on the roster. The Phillies' rotation is deep with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick. But Bush has a clause in his contract that allows him to be traded for a spot on the 25-man roster if he is not with the Phillies by June 1.
So maybe he opens eyes and gets an opportunity to pitch elsewhere.
"I still know I can get people out," he said. "I still feel healthy."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.