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Phillies Competitions: 5th Starter, Temporary Lefty Set-up Man

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There are two major high-profile competitions taking place in Phillies 2009 spring training camp.†

††††††††††††† ††† Kyle Kendrick†††††††† †† JA Happ

One competition is for the 5th spot in the starting rotation where youngsters Kyle Kendrick, Carlos Carrasco and lefthander J.A. Happ are competing with veteran Chan Ho Park.† The competition is wide open as the team prepares for its spring training opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates† on Wednesday February 25.

The other competition is for lefthanded set-up for the first 50 games of the regular season as JC Romero serves his MLB-imposed suspension for alleged use of a banned substance.

††††††††††††††††Mike Zagurski††††† †††† Scott Eyre

This competition is also hot ‘n heavy between 37 year old veteran reliever† Scott Eyre who was acquired by the Phils from the Chicago Cubs†in early August going 3-0 with 1 blown save and giving up 3 earned runs on 3 homers during that stretch, and 26 year old Mike Zagurski who is back in training camp after a torn hamstring in 2007 followed by Tommy John surgery in 2008.

Phillies Nation’s Tim Malcolm wrote a nice piece today tracing Zagurski’s career from his selection by the Phils in in the 12th round of the 2005 draft through to spring training 2009.† Writes Malcolm:

…The Phillies are no longer scrounging for relief pitching. Sure they would like to add a left-handed arm, but itís surely not a threatening matter. Instead, the Phillies have their solidified closer, two tested setup men, a couple strong middle relievers and various options. Now the Phillies are the gold standard ó no longer the battle-weary collective of retreads and afternoon specials that surrendered hit after nail-killing hit.

…Zagurski hasnít thrown a professional pitch since that fateful night in Pittsburgh. Does the slider still handcuff lefties? Can the fastball improve?

…The Phillies might need Zagurski in April, much like the way they needed him desperately in May 2007. And all over again, the forgotten one will have to prove himself worthy of the challenge ó that he can throw a fastball to set up his slider. That he even has a fastball and a slider.

Meanwhile, the competition between Eyre and Zagurski could get more complicated if Happ fails to land the 5th starter job and lands in the bullpen by default.

And oh, by the way, this little piece of news fell through the cracks last season during the Phils drive to the MLB World Championship — veteran righthander Kris Benson, who had been in the Phils minor league system throughout 2008 rehabbing after surgery, was released by the team on Aug. 30.† On Saturday, Benson was signed to a minor league contract by the Texas Rangers. He reported to camp as a non-roster invitee as the Rangers are looking to add depth to their starting rotation.

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