03/27/08 5:40 PM ET
Eaton, Gordon struggle in spring finale
Manuel not overly concerned about likely fifth starter, closer
By Chris Girandola / Special to MLB.com
Adam Eaton began his possible reign as the fifth starter inauspiciously, surrendering seven runs (six earned) over 4 2/3 innings in a 14-5 loss to the Tigers on Thursday at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Then, closer Tom "Flash" Gordon gave up six of the seven runs Philadelphia's relievers allowed in the eighth.
"He got banged around a little bit, didn't he?" Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Eaton. "And Flash got talked to today."
While Eaton did face Detroit's potent lineup, it was no consolation considering he was coming off his best performance of the spring.
"I maybe stayed hard too much with cutters and fastballs," said Eaton, who concluded the spring with a 7.41 ERA, allowing 14 runs over 17 innings. "You have to give them credit. They have a good lineup and they hit some pretty good pitches today."
The right-hander, who gave up 11 hits and had only one strikeout on Thursday, allowed a run in each of the five innings he pitched. Over the first three frames, he allowed one run in each, including a solo homer to Placido Polanco, then surrendered three more runs in the fourth.
Eaton almost got out of the fifth inning, but an error on the throw by shortstop Eric Bruntlett on a double-play possibility allowed another Tigers run to score. Eaton was relieved by Clay Condrey, who retired the side on a first-pitch flyout by Jacque Jones.
"I thought my stuff was just as good at the beginning as it was at the end," said Eaton, who allowed a walk for the first time this spring. "I fell behind a lot of guys, but I felt good. I thought I threw some pitches when I needed to."
It was a disappointment for Eaton, who had turned in two impressive outings in a row before Thursday's start. In his previous start last Friday, the 30-year-old righty allowed four hits and just one run in 5 1/3 innings in a 3-2 win over the Twins. On March 15, Eaton gave up five hits without allowing a run in three innings against the Twins.
But his manager did not seem too concerned.
"I thought he had pretty good stuff," Manuel said. "They're a good hitting team. I felt like he made some good pitches. He threw the ball around the plate, but he left some pitches out over the plate."
The performance on Thursday mirrors the beginning of the Grapefruit League for Eaton, who compiled a 15.75 ERA in two starts that saw the righty allow 10 hits and record just two strikeouts in four innings.
Following the game, Manuel wouldn't commit to officially naming Eaton as the fifth starter, which the Phillies would probably need April 5 at Cincinnati.
"We'll see when we get there," Manuel said. "Saturday's a long way off."
Asked if there might be a possibility that the Phillies would skip the fifth starter's turn, Manuel shied away from the notion.
"I don't know," Manuel said. "We haven't talked about that. We'll wait and see."
In terms of his closer, who allowed 13 runs (11 earned) in eight spring innings, Manuel is more than confident that Gordon is ready to go.
"He's healthy, he's fine," Manuel said. "He had a hard time getting them off of him today. But he'll be all right. He's ready to go. Flash will be saving the games when the season starts."
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.