Notes: Tejeda's role up in the air

Notes: Talented Tejeda's role up in the air

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The line on Robinson Tejeda's July 23 start against San Diego looked about right: The rookie tossed 93 pitches in six shutout innings, allowing two hits and five walks.

On that evening, the right-hander's fastball darted all over the strike zone, but it consistently missed a bat when it needed to. Watching video after that start, pitching coach Rich Dubee compared Tejeda to Harry Houdini, the "escape artist."

There's little doubt that Tejeda lived dangerously last season, though he often found a way out. He did this with confidence, continually challenging hitters to hit his best stuff. They usually couldn't.

Despite allowing 118 baserunners in 85 2/3 innings -- 51 of them walks -- Tejeda compiled a 3.57 ERA. He entered Spring Training healed from a shoulder injury and is likely to assume one of the 12 pitching spots. The question is where.

Tejeda wants to start, but he'll have to beat out Ryan Franklin or Ryan Madson. Manager Charlie Manuel categorizes him as a long man and spot starter, but he isn't opposed to using him in the later innings.

"He can do either," said Manuel. "He proved last year he could start, and he can be an effective reliever, too."

Manuel is searching for a righty replacement for Madson, someone who can eat up several innings. He could use lefties Aaron Fultz and Rheal Cormier, but he likes to have options.

Control is the albatross for Tejeda, who has performed better as a big-league starter than as a reliever. In 13 starts, he allowed 35 walks and 55 hits in 69 innings, vs. 16 walks and 12 hits in 17 2/3 innings during relief appearances.

With Tejeda nearly guaranteed a spot on the roster, the possibility of him pitching for the Dominican Republic the World Baseball Classic makes his regular-season role more difficult to define. It's hard to impress the brass when you're not in camp.

Not that the right-hander wouldn't be honored to pitch for his native Dominican Republic -- he's on the provisional roster and will participate if someone backs out or gets injured -- but he's concerned about his Phillies role.

"When I first heard I was one of the guys picked to represent my country, I was excited," said Tejeda, who would prefer if the tournament was held after the World Series. "At the same time, I have to make [the Phillies]. I need to be in perfect condition to win a spot."

He's also not resting on the success of last season.

"I know I had a good season, but I'm not going to sit here like I have a job," he said. "I want to leave that behind and start again this year. And maybe do better. That's in my mind right now."

spring training 2006
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Fly away: Cory Lidle is a golfer, not a hunter. He's a serious poker player, not a serious risk taker.

But Lidle explored a new type of adventure this offseason, when the veteran right-hander secured his pilot's license last week after 40 hours of instruction.

"It almost feels like I'm 16 and getting my driver's license," he said. "You get this sense of freedom."

When Lidle wants to borrow the keys to dad's Cessna, he rents one from a nearby airport. It's the perfect way to travel from his home in Glendora, Calif., to his "second home" in Las Vegas, where he hosts an annual poker tournament. A 4 1/2-hour drive is reduced to a one-hour flight, with no traffic.

And he feels it's safer to fly, too.

"If you're 7,000 feet in the air and your engine stops, you can glide for 20 minutes," Lidle said. "As long as you're careful, everything should be fine."

Lidle, who plans to buy a four-seat plane next winter for golfing and gambling weekends, has wanted to learn to fly for years. A friend became a pilot last year and helped Lidle down the same airstrip.

The Phillies were understandably not thrilled with the idea of Lidle earning his pilot's license, and they reminded him that a plane-related injury is a violation of his contract.

"Guys are allowed to do whatever they want, but we just needed to inform him," said assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "Guys have hobbies, and we understand this. A lot of guys have a whole ton of hobbies that people don't consider dangerous, but can be."

Baseball fans know about former Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, who died piloting a plane in 1979.

Contract language stipulates "flying a plane" as prohibited, but the list also including hunting, snowboarding and skiing, common activities among players do. It's fair for a team to protect itself against situations like Ron Gant's snowmobile accident in the winter of 1993 or Jeff Kent's "truck washing" accident a few years ago.

"You can walk across the street and get hurt," said Amaro. "We're not trying to discourage a player from anything. There are very specific items that are involved. [Flying a plane] is one of maybe 15 or 20 things."

"Flying a plane isn't dangerous," Lidle said. "The people up there flying know what they're doing."

Hair today: Proving again that Manuel has a story for everything is this gem when a reporter casually mentioned backup catcher Sal Fasano's rather noticeable mustache.

"You guys might not believe this, but I might have been the guy who started mustaches in baseball," Manuel said, leaning back in his chair. "In 1969, when I played in Puerto Rico, I had a handlebar mustache -- a nice one, too. That's when I still had my brown hair. I was a young pup, man. I used have long hair."

What about Rollie Fingers?

"Rollie had a good one, too," Manuel said. "He put the wax on it. I used to just sit there and twist mine."

Manuel's 'stache is long gone, and the hair that remains on his head has turned gray.

"I used to be young once, too, you know," Manuel said.

Philling in: Catcher Carlos Ruiz and right-hander Aquilino Lopez have arrived in Clearwater and will be in camp on Sunday. They were delayed because of visa problems. ... The new left-field wall at Citizens Bank Park is on schedule to be completed by April 1, when the Phillies play an exhibition game against the Red Sox. The club lost 196 seats in moving the fence back five feet and raising it 2 1/2 feet, but it plans to keep the flower bed. ... Jimmy Rollins and Bobby Abreu are expected to arrive at camp Monday for physicals, and the team is planning a news conference for each. Rollins has an ongoing 36-game hitting streak, while Abreu was the hottest potential trade target in the offseason.

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