Carpenter shines in relief

Carpenter shines in relief

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The 245-pound locomotive was impossible to miss as it rumbled from the Minor League complex to the Grapefruit League.

When Drew Carpenter briefly idled his engine for his Bright House Field debut, the heralded prospect realized his chance to make a statement. Ignoring the Yankees uniform before him -- out of ignorance or single-minded focus -- the right-hander made an impression in Philadelphia's 4-0 win.

Carpenter tossed four scoreless frames against a Yankees lineup that included reigning AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada and Jason Giambi. While Brett Myers lowered his Spring ERA to 1.13 by going the first five scoreless innings, the 22-year-old farmhand made it into his day.

"I'd put this as my first big league outing," said Carpenter, told Saturday that he'd pitch in Wednesday's game. "I was facing their regulars. I was fine [warming up in the bullpen], then I got out there and was a little nervous. When I started making good pitches I settled down. I was feeling good."

He looked good. Cano grounded out and Abreu walked. No problem, as he got Rodriguez to ground into a double play. Yes, A-Rod.

"He's a little intimidating," Carpenter said. "I was just glad he rolled over that fastball."

He struck out the side in his second inning, Giambi, Posada and Wilson Betemit.

"I don't think I really realized that until now," he said. "I was just going out there trying to hit the glove. I didn't even pay attention to who it was until after. It was fun."

Carpenter tossed a perfect eighth, his third, but seemed on the verge of losing his "shutout" when he loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. Unfazed, he recorded a strikeout, a popout and a strikeout. Game over.

Some Minor Leaguer.

"A lot of difference between Minor League pitchers and big league pitchers is the ability to make a pitch in a big situation," said Chris Coste, who caught him. "He didn't know the hitters so I told him [in the ninth] that a guy was a fastball hitter, so he said let's throw some sliders.

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"He's not overpowering, but he's got a really good fastball and hits his spots. He's got a really good big league future."

When that future will arrive remains unclear. He went 17-6 last season with a 3.20 ERA, then won two playoff games, lifting Class A Clearwater to the Florida State League title. Because the Phillies had other players ahead of him on the depth chart -- and players from outside to evaluate -- Carpenter wasn't invited to big league camp.

Though disappointed, Carpenter used it as motivation.

"It's going to make me work harder to get here next year and maybe see if we can get up to Philly this year. It was a blessing in disguise that I wasn't here."

After three outings in Minor League games, Carpenter wowed the Phillies and stood out as he had hoped.

"We will definitely talk about this guy," said manager Charlie Manuel. "I don't care what league you play in. If you go 19-6, you gotta be doing something. I've watched A-league games for a long time. When you see somebody that pitches like he did and move the ball up and down and all around. He can pitch."

While it's unlikely that second-round pick from the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Long Beach State will thrust himself to the Major Leagues from Double-A Reading (where he'll start the season), it won't be unprecedented.

One has to look no further than Kyle Kendrick for evidence that it's possible.

"You get excited seeing him," said Minor League director Steve Noworyta, who watched with Minor League pitching coordinator Gorman Heimueller from left field. "We're like two proud parents watching. He has great mound presence. He's like Kendrick."

The Phillies would have to again be beset with injuries for Carpenter to see a similar opportunity. They used a franchise-high 28 pitchers last season and would prefer not to have to go through that again.

If necessary, they'll have to hope prospects like Carpenter, Josh Outman and Carlos Carrasco have progressed enough to be ready.

Carpenter's ability to work out of the ninth-inning jam showed plenty.

"I love the ninth inning," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "You don't want guys to struggle, but you want to see their backs against the wall a bit and see how they react. I didn't think he changed his approach one bit with the bases loaded."

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