CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jim Thome took an important step Monday, playing four innings at first base in a Minor League Spring Training game at Carpenter Complex.
Jose Contreras took a big step, too.
He recorded five outs, throwing 21 pitches in the same game. Contreras is recovering from elbow surgery, and if he continues to progress, he should be able to make the Opening Day roster.
"Oh, yeah," said Contreras, when asked how he felt. "Wow. I feel good. I'm happy."
Contreras struck out two batters and got Thome to bounce into a double play. Contreras also hit a batter.
He is not sure when he will pitch next or when he might appear in a Grapefruit League game, but he is optimistic.
Worley decides to stay in his comfort zone
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The experimentation of the split-fingered changeup is on hold for Vance Worley.
In the meantime, Worley wants to perfect what is in his repertoire and not have any sophomore jinx.
On Monday, the 24-year-old right-hander seemed to be in midseason form, recording eight strikeouts over four perfect innings against the Pirates in the Phillies' 4-1 win. The eight K's were his most in a game since tossing nine in seven innings of a 9-4 win on Aug. 23 against the New York Mets.
"I was fired up a little bit different than a usual spring game because of my last start," said Worley, who allowed five hits and two runs in two innings last Wednesday in a 10-3 loss to the Astros. "The first game I was upset with myself because I wasn't locating well and the results weren't there for me. Before this game started, I said to myself, 'I'm gonna go out there and be hard on myself and not accept giving up hits like that.' Today, I went after guys."
Worley was considerably more efficient during the 54-pitch outing against the Pirates, in which he tossed 38 strikes. He began his second Grapefruit League start with two strikeouts, using a fastball to get Alex Presley looking and a nifty "front-door sinker" to get Nate McLouth swinging.
"Of course, I'd rather pitch to contact because it helps you get deeper into games, but if they're going to swing at them and miss, I'll take them," said Worley, who went on to record two strikeouts in each of the next three innings he pitched.
Worley decided not to work the split-fingered changeup into his repertoire of pitches -- which includes his trademark sinker along with a cut fastball, slider and curveball -- because he admittedly stewed about his first Spring Training start.
"I know you're not supposed to sit and think about stuff that happened, but I did and I wasn't happy about it for four days," said Worley, who went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 25 appearances last season to finish third in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. "We were going to throw [the split-finger changeup], but judging by the swings and the non-swings in the count, I didn't want to get hurt on it again like I did the last time when I got hurt by it."
Another reason is he still feels the need to prove himself worthy of a spot in the rotation.
"It's definitely a thought in the back of my mind, that if I don't go out there and have success, I'm not guaranteed a job out of spring, so I have to go out there and earn it," Worley said.
Nix exits Monday's game after one at-bat
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Laynce Nix thought he would be fine to play Monday against the Pirates after suffering a bruise to his left rib cage in a home-plate collision against the Tigers on Sunday, but after striking out in his first at-bat and playing in the field at first for two innings, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel decided to replace him.
"He just didn't feel good, so I thought it would be best to get him out of there," Manuel said.
Nix said following the Phillies' 4-1 win that he would rest "probably another day or so" to see if it felt better.
"It felt terrible this morning," said Nix, who was injured in the sixth inning of Sunday's game when he came around from second base on a single by Freddy Galvis and collided with Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday. "I thought it would work itself out today, but obviously it didn't."
Hector Luna came in for Nix and hit a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning on a 3-1 pitch from Pirates reliever Chris Resop. It was Luna's second homer of the spring and seventh RBI.
"He can hit and he has a good approach up there at the plate," Manuel said. "He's got a good swing and he can play first and third, so I like what I see."
Pierre, Podsednik continue position battle
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik each went 1-for-3 on Monday as the two continue to battle for a bench spot with the Phillies.
The 34-year-old Pierre, who started in left field, batted second in the lineup and had an infield single in the second inning off Pirates starter Charlie Morton. Pierre advanced to second on a single by Shane Victorino, but he was subsequently picked off second by Morton.
The 35-year-old Podsednik, who started in right field, batted sixth in the lineup and had a sharp single to right field after Carlos Ruiz led off the second inning with a single. Ruiz and Podsednik moved up a base after a sacrifice bunt by Tyson Gillies, but both were stranded after Pete Orr stuck out and Michael Martinez grounded out.
Pierre and Podsednik were signed to Minor League deals to add depth to the outfield.
"They're going to start getting a lot more playing time so now's the time for them to show what they can do," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.