03/27/2013 1:26 PM ET
All eyes to be on Halladay in Phils' final Grapefruit tilt
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- There will be plenty of intrigue Thursday, when the Phillies play their final Grapefruit League game of 2013.
Roy Halladay will face the Toronto Blue Jays at Bright House Field. Normally, this would be a nondescript tuneup for Halladay, but this start carries significance. The veteran right-hander has had issues in each of his previous four starts, not resembling the pitcher who dominated the National League for the Phillies in 2010-11. But on Saturday, following a Minor League start at Carpenter Complex in which he allowed 11 of 18 batters to reach base, Halladay indicated he expects improved results Thursday.
"I think going into the last start will be more like a regular start, where you're trying to mix pitches like you normally would during a game," he said Saturday. "I think being able to figure out that cutter grip today, I can work on that in my bullpen more, and then my next time out, I feel like we can go out and pitch like I would pitch during a game."
Publicly, the Phillies are keeping a stiff upper lip on Halladay, claiming they are unconcerned and that his struggles are nothing unexpected or abnormal.
But they have seen what everybody else has seen this spring, so they would like to see some positive results before Halladay faces the Braves on Wednesday at Turner Field.
All systems go for Hamels after final spring tuneup
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Cole Hamels appears ready to face the Braves on Opening Day.
The left-hander allowed one hit, one walk and struck out three in three scoreless innings on Wednesday against the Tigers in a Grapefruit League game at Joker Marchant Stadium. Hamels pitched three innings, as scheduled, as he prepares for the regular season.
"I feel strong and healthy and I think that's first and foremost," Hamel said in the clubhouse. "I'm comfortable knowing I can get out there every five days and know that I can go deep into the ballgame. … Knowing that all five pitches I throw, they feel really good with the way the grips are. To be able to hit both sides of the plate, which I feel pretty comfortable with, is great."
The only thing uncomfortable right now is Hamels' beard. He has been growing it for some time. He plans to shave it soon.
"It's hurting the appearance," he said.
Frandsen nursing sore wrist after being hit by pitch
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Kevin Frandsen earned a spot on the Opening Day roster Sunday, when the Phillies released Yuniesky Betancourt.
But Frandsen got a big scare in the third inning Wednesday at Joker Marchant Stadium, when Tigers ace Justin Verlander drilled him in the left wrist with a 94 mph fastball. Frandsen remained in the game before Phillies manager Charlie Manuel walked onto the field to remove him before the bottom of the third.
Frandsen said he is fine, although he had stitches from the baseball imprinted on his wrist as a memento.
"It's not like it's painful," Frandsen said. "It's sore. I've been hit well over 100 times in my professional career. Anywhere near your hand is the one that kind of freaks you out. The way it came off, it wasn't like I couldn't feel my hand or anything. It was just sore … as it should be after getting hit with a fastball."
Frandsen said no X-rays were scheduled, as far as he knew.
Opening Day nod or not, health is key for Nix
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel treats his Opening Day lineup like the nuclear codes for the president, so it is anybody's guess where Jimmy Rollins or Ben Revere will be slotted in the lineup Monday in Atlanta.
The same is true for left field. It could be Laynce Nix against Braves right-hander Tim Hudson because he hits left-handed. Nix has hit .308 (8-for-26) with one double, one home run, four RBIs, one walk and eight strikeouts in his career against Hudson. But John Mayberry Jr., who hits right-handed, has had arguably better success against Hudson, albeit in a smaller sample size. He has hit .308 (4-for-13) with two home runs, five RBIs, four walks and just two strikeouts.
"We've got a lot of talent here," Nix said of the outfield situation. "We've got a lot of players that can play. We can mix and match at different positions. I think everyone is going to be utilized in the best interest of the team. And I think all of us understand that. I think our performance on the field is going to dictate what happens."
Manuel could platoon Mayberry and Nix in left field until Delmon Young joins the team, which could happen before May 1.
Nix started last season nicely, hitting .326 (15-for-46) with six doubles, two home runs, 11 RBIs and a .979 OPS in 22 games before being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 11 because of a strained left calf. He did not return until July 22, and hit .191 (13-for-68) with four doubles, one home run, five RBIs and a .557 OPS the rest of the way.
Nix can be effective, but he needs to stay healthy. And that has been a problem throughout his career. He has been on the disabled list seven times in his 10-year career.
"I've got to be healthy and string together two, three, 400 at-bats and I'll be good," Nix said. "But health is the big thing. I feel pretty good. If I stay healthy, I feel I'll be able to do some damage. I want to do what's best for this team, whether that's in a platoon role, playing every day or coming off the bench, I'm going to make sure I'm ready for that."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.