BRADENTON, Fla. –- There are no controlled situations in the Grapefruit League. You play the ball where it lies, the games as they come.
But the Phillies couldn’t have drawn up a training situation any better than the one that was presented to lefty reliever Jake Diekman in the sixth inning of Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Pirates.
Starter A.J. Burnett had reached his 90-pitch limit with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
“I didn’t want you to come into an easy spot,” Burnett jokingly told Diekman in the clubhouse later.
Diekman handled the pressure situation well. He got ahead of both Chris Dickerson and Russell Martin and struck both out on a fastball and a slider, respectively.
“That was good for him,” manager Ryne Sandberg said after the game. “He came through big there. He showed a lot of good stuff.”
Nine days before the season opener, Diekman was thrilled to be presented with such a situation. Needless to say, he was pleased with the outcome.
“As a reliever, you’re going to come into those situations so it’s good to have them here,” he said.
Burnett likes what he’s seen of Diekman, the hard-throwing side-armer.
“It looks like he has a lot of confidence in himself,” Burnett said. “If I threw 100 (mph) from the left side, I’d be, too.”
Burnett struggled with his control, walking six in 5 1/3 innings.
The right-hander had trouble commanding his curveball, but said, “It will be there,” once the regular season starts.
Burnett will have one more spring tuneup before starting the second game of the season against Texas.
Burnett, of course, spent the last two seasons with the Pirates before signing with the Phillies for $16 million in February. The Pirates tried to retain him, but offered just $11 million, according to a person with knowledge of the offer.
Apparently one Pirates fan was upset that Burnett left Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Burnett was involved in a brief verbal altercation with a fan as he left McKechnie Field after the game. The incident was quickly extinguished.
Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Cody Asche all homered in the game.
Howard also struck out twice, giving him 20 in 50 at-bats.
Third baseman Maikel Franco, pitcher Sean O’Sullivan and outfielder Clete Thomas were reassigned to minor-league camp.
Catcher Cameron Rupp made a throwing error, breaking the Phils’ 10-game errorless streak.
Reliever Brad Lincoln allowed three runs to take the loss.
The Phillies host the Twins on Sunday. Kyle Kendrick starts against Phil Hughes.