Monday, May 16, 2011
Posted: 4:20 p.m. Updated: 8:10 p.m.
By Jim Salisbury
ST. LOUIS Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco was not in the lineup for Monday nights series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
According to manager Charlie Manuel, Polanco complained of some stiffness in his lower back after Sundays game in Atlanta.
That, however, is not the main reason that Polanco was getting a rare night off. (He had started 38 of the teams previous 39 games.) Like much of the Phillies offense, Polanco is mired in a slump he is 4 for 22 in six games on this road trip and in Manuels opinion just needed a day off.
After the game yesterday, he had a little stiffness in his lower back, Manuel said. Its not an injury, just a little tightness. Plus, hes been chasing some balls in the dirt, and thats a sign he needs a blow.
Despite his recent slump, Polanco leads the Phillies with a .340 batting average. The Phils are hitting just .217 on this road trip.
Its tough to sit him, Manuel said. At the same time, I think he needs a blow.
Asked about the back stiffness, Polanco said, Its been like that for a while, but its no big thing. Its just a day off.
Wilson Valdez got the start at third. He hit second. Shane Victorino (sore hamstring) remained out of the lineup, and John Mayberry started in centerfield.
For the Cardinals, Albert Pujols was starting at third base for the first time since September 2002. Lance Berkman was starting at first base. Manager Tony La Russa told reporters he put Pujols at third because he was looking for better defense. The Cardinals have been mixing and matching at third base with starter David Freese on the disabled list.
Oswalt to return
Roy Oswalt was activated from the disabled list after missing time with a lower back strain. The righthander makes his first big-league start in three weeks on Tuesday night. Hes not promising that he will have his good fastball.
The big thing is arm strength, Oswalt said. Youve got to build your arm strength when you havent thrown in awhile. It may take a start or two to get going.
Thats not exactly a promising statement as Oswalt gets set to face a rugged St. Louis lineup. Oswalts fastball was noticeably down in his minor-league rehab start on Thursday. With the pitcher acknowledging that his arm strength is probably not 100 percent, why not have him make another rehab start? The Phils could have done that and used Vance Worley in Tuesday nights game. Worley, instead, was sent to Triple A so he can remain stretched out as a starter.
Hes healthy, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said of Oswalt. And if hes healthy, wed rather have him start here. We could have kept Worley, but wed rather have one of our best pitchers going.
The Phillies are content to let Oswalt build his arm strength in the majors. Oswalt thinks he can survive if he can locate the ball.
When youre not throwing 94 or 95 mph, you have to learn how to pitch, he said. If you dont know how to pitch youre going to get hit around. Hopefully I can get my location going. Velocity isnt a big deal to me. I feel like I can throw enough off-speed pitches and locate the ball well enough where I can pitch.
Oswalt has not started in the majors since April 26. Theres always some uncertainty getting back into a big-league game.
Im going to go out and give 100 percent, he said. If it doesnt work, it doesnt work. Im going to try, though. Thats all you can do. It might not be good enough this time. It might not be good enough next time. But if I keep doing it, it should be.
The biggest thing about it is when you have a back issue, your workouts arent the same. You dont get to do your leg workouts because youre trying to protect your back. So that might be a little bit of the reason the velocity wasnt there the last start. I dont know. But I feel good and well see how it goes.
Oswalt will be on a pitch count of about 70.
Reliever Jose Contreras, on the DL with a sore elbow, will pitch an inning for Clearwater on Wednesday.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org
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