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04/03/12 11:50 PM ET

'Grateful' Savery to open year in Phils' bullpen

Manuel selects Orr over Podsednik for final bench spot

PHILADELPHIA -- The Joe Savery story is almost so unbelievable he can't comprehend it himself. A year ago, he was a failed No. 1 Draft choice who decided his last chance left to reach the Majors was to come off the mound and play first base at Class A Clearwater.

He hit his way to Double-A to Reading, where in June, the team needed a pitcher and found one with a miraculously rediscovered fastball. By September, he was a Major League callup. And on Opening Day on Thursday in Pittsburgh, Savery will be wearing a Phillies uniform.

"There a number of things that factored into it," he said. "I went about nine months without pitching, which helped, and being in the infield shortened up my motion.

"But I don't know how to explain it other than it's just an act of God."

By an act of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies late Thursday night got down to 12 pitchers by optioning Raul Valdez and Hector Luna to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Pete Orr won the last position spot over Scott Podsednik, who also was farmed to Lehigh Valley, while Savery was left standing with the pinch marks to prove it.

"I'm humbled and grateful," he said. "I know where I was a year ago and how hard those two years pitching were for me.

"I just got off the phone with my wife and parents [in Houston]. It's hard to believe I am here."

Two of the five Phillies who will start the season on the disabled list -- Justin De Fratus and Jose Contreras -- are pitchers, so Savery's hold on a bullpen spot is as tenuous as it is inspirational.

"I probably have tonight and tomorrow morning to savor it," he said. "I'm not going to stay here if I don't get people out. My story may make some people feel good, but if I don't help this team, they don't need me here."

"One thing I did know [coming to camp] is that I was going have to be better than good. You never give up total hope, but I also realized it's a pretty long road, especially with the quality of players this organization has."

A spot opened up for Orr in the absence of Michael Martinez (on the DL with a fractured foot) and his versatility won the job over Podsednik.

"That was a tough one, Podsenik had a very good spring." said manager Charlie Manuel. "[Juan] Pierre can do a little bit more ... and we needed a utility player and that was Orr."

Michael Stutes tested a troublesome shoulder for five outs in a game of Minor Leaguers in Clearwater, Fla., on Tuesday night and passed, bringing the roster of pitchers the Phils will take to Pittsburgh to 12, one more than some expected, considering there are three off days in the first three weeks of the schedule.

"If we took 11, we figured it wouldn't be very long before we added a 12th one," said Manuel. "Might as well take the 12 now.

"Savery's velocity picked up and he made our team. Pretty good story. He's come a long ways."

Jay Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.