"It hurts a lot, because I finally found a home," said Fasano, who was designated for assignment on Saturday. "This is where I thought I might retire. The fans have been great. I don't know what else more I could have done. I don't think I played that bad to deserve getting designated. Unfortunately, that's part of this job."
It was an ugly part of the job for Fasano, who batted .243, with four homers, in 50 games. But while he spent the past two weeks on the disabled list with a left knee injury he didn't believe was that serious, Mike Lieberthal returned and Chris Coste hit well. The Phillies preferred 13 pitchers over three catchers, so Fasano became a victim of the numbers game.
That went as follows: The Phillies had only two optionable players, Coste and pitcher Geoff Geary. Anyone else would require a process of waivers, through which that player could be claimed by another team. The Phillies could have released Rick White or offered newly acquired Rule 5 draftee Fabio Castro back to the White Sox, but decided against carrying three catchers.
"We decided to stay with Lieberthal and Coste as our catchers," said Ruben Amaro Jr., the assistant general manager. "We felt like [Lieberthal and Coste] were doing a very good job in that role. Unfortunately for Sal, while he worked hard and was very professional for us, he got caught up in a numbers game. He did a pretty good job, but there are certain difficult decisions you have to make when
these types of situations occur."
This didn't make it any easier for Fasano, who had quickly embraced the city and been embraced in turn by its fans. A group of about 20 or so formed Sal's Pals, and dressed up with fake mustaches and wigs.
Fasano had hoped that this, his 10th organization, would be his last.
Now the Phillies have 10 days to either trade or release him, or assign him to Triple-A. Fasano said that he won't go to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and hopes that some team will show an interest. Amaro is hopeful that the Phillies will find a match.
"I'm not very pleased with it, but it's a part of the game that you don't understand and you don't know if you'll ever understand," Fasano said. "Me coming off the DL really forced their hand. They basically said they needed to make a move, and they can't justify getting rid of anybody else, which I can understand. Catching-wise, you keep the guys that you had, but I was under the impression that we were
going to keep three catchers."
Fasano had started to suspect something while on his third day of rehabilitation, then again when he was ready to come off. He also felt that the organization didn't fill him in totally.
"To me, if you just say that [you] have problems with the roster right away and [you] need [me] to stay around, that probably would have changed my mind a bit, and I may have wanted to stay," he said. "But when I got to hear it secondhand, I really wasn't pleased about it.
"I just didn't think that being outrighted is a reward for going on the DL when you didn't want to. Maybe I should have made it a little bit more known then. It just goes to show you they'd rather go with guys they just picked up than guys that were here."
"I've got to keep working out," he said, maintaining his sense of humor. "I can't go home and watch TV and eat popcorn as much as I would like to. Football season is coming around, so I'd have something to watch on ESPN. There is an opportunity to go somewhere [where I'm wanted]. It's encouraging that way, but it's discouraging because I didn't want to leave here."
On one hand, this was a sad day for Coste, when he had to say good-bye to Fasano, his "favorite player on the team."
"To see him leave in any capacity is hard," Coste said. "It was hard to watch him pack his stuff. I almost didn't want to say good-bye."
On the other hand, it was a happy day, because it meant that the Phillies decided to keep him, a 33-year-old rookie hitting .333.
"[Fasano] said he was proud of me," he said. "He said, 'I knew you could do this.' "
Coste will use Fasano's example as motivation. As he clutched his first home-run ball, which has been encased and dated for posterity, he spoke of the feeling of never being satisfied.
"You can't get too comfortable," Coste said. "Six weeks ago, he was hitting .285, and catching well. ... I could be packing my stuff six weeks from now. That's the biggest motivation. If you're going well, you're never as good as you think you are. When you're going bad, you're never as bad as you think.
"As much as I want to buy a new car, I won't," he said, laughing. "My wife and I are a one-car family. We keep thinking about a second car, but we're not ready for that yet -- it's almost like a jinx."
Left-hander Randy Wolf said that he felt "the best I've ever felt" after his 94-pitch outing on
Friday with Double-A Reading, and he knows his return is imminent.
His next outing could be either Wednesday or Thursday, and his start after that could either be a final rehab assignment or his 2006 debut with the Phillies.
Either way, he has evolved from worrying about his arm to worrying about his pitch selection.
What have the last 13 months been like?
"It's like that scene in 'The Jerk' when [Steve Martin's Navin Johnson] goes, 'When I was with you, it felt like two days,' " he said. "That's how the process has been. At times it felt like it flew by. The offseason was a normal offseason. I'd just rehab like I'd always do. Then April started and time stood still, and the team left and it was me and [Rule 5 draftee] Chris Booker in the [Clearwater, Fla.] clubhouse. Without the team there, you don't feel part of it."
Dellucci wants to play:
David Dellucci generally smiles and talks frequently about the importance
of the team concept, but that doesn't mean he's fine with his personal situation.
"Here we are, at July 22, and I've got 106 at-bats," Dellucci said. "It's awfully frustrating to come off two years like I have and be put in this role. You want to help the team out the best you can, but you want to play every day. There's nobody in baseball whose goal is to be a pinch-hitter or a utility player."
At least not at 32 years old, and having averaged 117 games over the past two years.
"I had the opportunity the last two years to play on a consistent basis," he said. "I went into Spring Training this year as an everyday left fielder. [Since] the trade, I feel that I've been demoted to this role."
Dellucci made it clear that he understands that the Phillies have three outfielders who deserve to play every day, and he's not saying that he should start over any of them. He's just saying that he wishes the situation were different.
"It's just an unfair situation for me," he said. "Every day has been tough on me mentally. I don't want to say it's a wasted year, but it's a year where I'm not able to produce like I have the last two years."
Dellucci also sees little comfort in leading the National League with 15 pinch-hits.
"I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing," he said. "It may be a preview to what I can do
when I'm Julio Franco, but I'm not there yet."
Brett Myers will get his first taste of the home fans' reaction as he takes the mound at Citizens Bank Park for the first time since his arrest on June 23 for domestic assault. In his first start back, in San Francisco, he shook off the boos rather easily, limiting the Giants to two runs in seven innings. His only nemesis was the long ball, as he gave up two home runs. Myers has two no-decisions against the Braves this year, having allowed five earned runs in 12 innings. He would have started on Saturday, but rain cancelled the game.
Atlanta will keep to its schedule and send Horacio Ramirez to the hill.