Notes: Rodriguez gunning for rotation

Notes: Rodriguez still gunning for rotation

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The audition of Ricardo Rodriguez continued in earnest on Monday when the right-hander made an unexpected Grapefruit League start.

A number of scouts, as well as the usual members of the Phillies organization, watched Rodriguez face the Tigers at Bright House Networks Field. Rodriguez replaced Jon Lieber, who instead tossed 62 pitches in a Minor League game.

Rodriguez was scheduled to pitch anyway on Monday, but he was told of the upgrade in the morning.

"I was happy to do my job," said Rodriguez. "They're giving me the opportunity to show what I can go."

Mike Arbuckle, the Phillies assistant general manager, scouting and player development, said the Phillies want to evaluate the pitcher acquired for starter Vicente Padilla.

"We need to see him so we can make decisions," Arbuckle said.

Rodriguez left an impression in a four-inning outing, allowing two runs on five hits in four innings, while walking none and striking out one. He lowered his spring ERA to 3.38.

The 27-year-old with a career ERA of 5.18 entered the spring competing for one of the final two rotation spots with Ryan Madson, Robinson Tejeda and Ryan Franklin. Madson has been impressive so far, and Franklin, while inconsistent, appears to have an inside track on the final spot.

Rodriguez will hear none of this, and has set out to force the Phillies to make a different decision. If he pitches well enough, he could force Franklin or Madson to the bullpen.

At the least, he's satisfied to get an opportunity he said he never got with the Rangers.

"I have to show them I can be one of the guys," he said. "I'm so happy I'm out of Texas. I never had an opportunity there. I want to show them what I can do. You can't show the world what you can do if you don't get the opportunity. That's the main thing."

Rodriguez made it clear that his strong preference is to start, and he wouldn't be happy as a reliever, though he said it's better than the Minor Leagues. He has no Minor League options remaining, and Rodriguez would have to clear waivers before he could be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Some team would likely claim him, so the Phillies would prefer to work out a trade -- perhaps for an outfielder -- if Rodriguez isn't going to be in their plans.

"He's got a good arm, and we want to take a good look at him," said manager Charlie Manuel. "If we can get him to do what we want, we got plans for him."

Rodriguez prefers to see what happens, and he intends to continue fighting for a spot.

"Nobody knows until Spring Training is over," said Rodriguez. "I'm going to do the best I can. Let's see what happens."

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Change of pace: While Lieber toiled at the Minor League complex, he worked more on his seldom-used changeup.

Lieber threw 62 pitches in a five-inning outing, allowing four hits and no walks. He struck out six.

"I did [want to throw more changeups]," said Lieber. "I really wanted to work on getting my slider down. I feel like the last game was so-so, and today, it was much better. I felt a good tempo."

Lieber said it didn't matter that he was pitching in a Minor League game, and he understood that the Phillies wanted to evaluate Rodriguez in Grapefruit League action.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said he'd thinks an improved changeup can only help Lieber's repertoire, and Spring Training is the time to refine.

"Hopefully, it'll be another pitch that's a lot more usable for him," said Dubee. "It can be a serviceable pitch, something that might be able to get him a few easy outs over the course of a game."

Hamels ready to go: Top prospect Cole Hamels is expected to pitch two innings on Tuesday, in an intrasquad Minor League game, the first competitive action the lefty has seen since July.

After barely pitching last spring because of back pain that was later diagnosed as a stress reaction, Hamels has been throwing pain-free this spring. If all goes well, there's a chance he could appear in a Grapefruit League game.

"I don't know about that, yet," said Dubee. "We'll see how he comes along. [Tuesday] is going to be his first game competing, and we can get him in a controlled environment, watch him and protect him, and make sure he's coming along as we hope."

Philling in: Third baseman David Bell said his back feels "100 percent," and expects to play in a Minor League game on Thursday. He fielded grounders again on Monday and participated in live batting practice without pain. "I'm very encouraged at this point," he said. ... Chris Booker will throw batting practice on Tuesday morning, and he may pitch in a Grapefruit League game later this week. A Rule 5 Draft acquisition, he'll have to make the Phillies' 25-man roster or be offered back to the Nationals. ... Tom Gordon will pitch an inning in a Minor League game on Tuesday. ... Ryan Howard started his 11th consecutive game on Monday, and is scheduled to make Tuesday's trip to Fort Myers.

Coming up: Brett Myers will make the trek to Fort Myers to face the Twins on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET. He has a 12.00 ERA this spring. Daniel Haigwood, Gio Gonzalez and Aaron Fultz are also scheduled to pitch. Boof Bonser is scheduled to pitch for the Twins.

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