3/6/2014 6:42 P.M. ET
Papelbon brings different mindset this spring
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jonathan Papelbon might be one of the few people not concerned about his velocity.
He has lost nearly three miles per hour on his fastball the past two seasons, according to FanGraphs. Coincidentally or not, Papelbon had the lowest strikeout rate of his career last season, and blew seven of his 36 save opportunities. His 80.6 save percentage ranked 29th out of 32 closers with 20 or more save opportunities.
"I think velo comes and goes the way your body feels," Papelbon said Thursday after striking out two in a scoreless inning against the Yankees at Bright House Field. "But if I'm not locating, it's not going to come in handy. At the end of the day, I don't want just velo, I want command, too."
But Papelbon has been in the 91-93 mph range through his first two Grapefruit League appearances, which could be an encouraging sign. Some closers and pitching coaches like to say closers don't hit peak velocity until the regular season because there simply isn't any adrenaline in Spring Training. Time will tell if that is true with Papelbon, but the Phillies seem to be encouraged.
"When I'm looking at him," Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure said, "I'm looking at the effort in throwing the ball and how the ball is coming out. For me, it's not like he's overthrowing. The ball is coming out clean. It's got some hop to it when it's coming through the zone. I'm very pleased with where he's at right now."
"He looks more comfortable out there," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Like nothing is bothering him."
Papelbon battled a left hip injury last season, which he has downplayed. He said Thursday he is healthy.
"I just had a bad wheel, man," he said.
But perhaps if Papelbon felt healthier last season, maybe if the ball had a little more hop through the zone, maybe he saves three of those seven games he blew.
"Maybe," he said.
Maybe he saves four or five.
"Maybe," he said.
"I don't want to make a big deal about that," Papelbon added. "I've still posted up, man. I posted up when we were 12 games out, 15 games out. I've still posted up. To me that's kind of irrelevant. It really truly is."
But Papelbon also said he worked hard in the offseason to be ready for 2014.
"I rehabbed it. I worked out on it," he said. "I went into this offseason with a mindset and a challenge to myself to come to spring a certain way. And I'm going to continue that challenge throughout the season. To me, I guess that's just how I tick. I'm the type of person that I need challenges. Things get boring."
So what's the challenge?
"It's more of a mental challenge, a focus challenge, a leadership challenge, a competitive challenge," he said. "That's a lot of things mixed into my mindset, and what I need to do to be successful. I don't know. I've got to keep things spicy, I guess."
Manship among Phils' arms to keep eye on
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies sent a split squad to Lakeland, Fla., Thursday afternoon to play the Tigers, but the game was canceled because of rain.
David Buchanan and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez had been scheduled to pitch. They are competing to be the team's fifth starter while the rotation is shorthanded with Cole Hamels battling shoulder problems. Buchanan has been impressive early in camp, while Gonzalez looks like he needs more time to develop after not pitching competitively the past two years.
Jeff Manship and Sean O'Sullivan also are in contention for a job, with Jonathan Pettibone behind schedule because of right shoulder inflammation, and Ethan Martin not throwing because of a strained right shoulder capsule and triceps. B.J. Rosenberg has started in the past, but the Phillies prefer him in the bullpen.
Manship is worth watching. He has impressed Phillies personnel, but he also carries a 6.42 ERA in 52 career big league appearances.
"From what our scouts have seen of him, he's always had a good arm," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It's been a matter of being able to command the zone better. That's true of all pitchers. Sometimes guys get it late. Sometimes guys get it early. Perhaps what [pitching coach] Bob [McClure] is preaching to the group -- keeping the ball down and keeping it simple -- maybe that is clicking. Who knows? Sometimes it clicks for guys and sometimes it doesn't. It's early, but he has impressed so far."
Amaro said Pettibone is "progressing good. We're hoping at some point he will be throwing to hitters. That's what we're pushing toward now. He feels good. He's been throwing without pain."
Kendrick has better outing second time around
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Kyle Kendrick promised last week he would be much better following a rocky Grapefruit League debut, which included three runs and three walks in two innings.
Kendrick fulfilled his expectations Thursday against the Yankees at Bright House Field. He allowed three hits, one run, one walk and struck out two in three innings in an improved effort.
Kendrick will pitch in a Minor League game Tuesday so he avoids facing the Atlanta Braves, a fellow National League East club.
"I'm going to work on my curveball down there," Kendrick said. "I threw some today, four or five that I was happy with today."
The Phillies need Kendrick to pitch well with Cole Hamels out. Hamels could miss April, at the very least, following another setback because of a shoulder issue.
"It's a bummer for the rotation," Kendrick said. "Cole is one of the best in the game. We're going to have to step up. I think we have the guys to do that. I just hope it's not too long. If it's a couple weeks, if it's all of April, who knows? We need him back as soon as possible."
• Amaro said setup man Mike Adams is progressing following right shoulder surgery. He is expected to open the season on the disabled list. "He will throw in another two days," Amaro said. "His last bullpen [session] went well. But, again, this is something that doesn't necessarily go in a straight line. So far, so good."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.