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07/28/08 9:12 PM ET

Eaton takes Minor League assignment

Left-hander Happ may join Phillies as part of bullpen

PHILADELPHIA -- Less than two weeks after being replaced in the Phillies' starting rotation, Adam Eaton has been sent to the Minor Leagues.

In the middle of a second disappointing season with Philadelphia, the struggling right-hander agreed to a Minor League assignment Monday, one day after allowing three runs in a relief outing.

The Phillies didn't specify where Eaton would land in a Monday morning statement, saying that his schedule was being worked out. Like Brett Myers in June, Eaton's outings might be determined according to which of the Minor League affiliates are home.

"We can't give him regular work," general manager Pat Gillick said. "He's been a starter all his life. This is the only way he can get back on track. I don't know when he would go in the game as a reliever."

Eaton had the right to refuse the assignment, but elected to go to the Minors, where he will again be a starting pitcher. He had pitched twice since being moved to the bullpen July 18.

A corresponding roster move to fill Eaton's spot on the 25-man roster wasn't announced, though indications are that left-hander J.A. Happ will be added before Tuesday's game against the Nationals. The lefty was pulled from his Sunday start for Triple-A Lehigh Valley after 2 2/3 scoreless innings and 41 pitches, and he was seen accepting the congratulations from teammates in the dugout that often signal a promotion.

Eaton, 31, went 4-8 with a 5.80 ERA in 21 games this season. He had started 19 games before the acquisition of Joe Blanton pushed him to the bullpen. Eaton has been ineffective since signing a three-year, $24.5 million contract before the 2007 season. He went 10-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 30 starts in 2007, and wasn't included on the team's postseason roster.

Eaton's demotion could be similar in scope to Myers, who agreed to a move on July 1, after posting a 3-9 record with a 5.84 ERA in his first 17 starts. Myers made four Minor League starts and returned to the Phillies for a start against the Mets.

Eaton can't return for at least 10 days -- unless there's an injury -- and could remain in the Minors until Sept. 1, when rosters expand. He didn't return a call seeking comment.

"Adam felt it was in his best interest and the Phillies' best interest to re-establish himself as a guy who could start, and he wasn't going to do that with the Phillies," said Jim Lindell, Eaton's agent. "I think he can do that, and will do that. I think Adam thinks he would be in the Phillies' rotation next year, but he knows he has to prove himself to the manager and the organization. The best place for him to do what he needs to do is the Minors."

Happ compiled a 3.27 ERA with no record in two July starts for the Phillies. He allowed six hits in 15 2/3 innings, with three walks and 23 strikeouts in three outings since being demoted to Triple-A. He may return to the Phillies as a reliever this time.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.