BRADENTON, Fla. -- Sitting on a bus for an hour to throw nine pitches worked just fine for Tom Gordon. In breezing through a scoreless eighth inning in Tuesday's 11-10 win over the Pirates, the Phillies' closer snapped off a few nifty curveballs and erased a one-out baserunner with a double play in his first Grapefruit League appearance. The Phils are hoping for many more outings just like it.
"I'd rather come here and throw a few pitches," Gordon said. "This was something I can build on. I thought my mechanics were good. With this being first time actually pitching in a game, all my pitches felt good." Gordon's previous two spring outings have been in simulated games, as the Phillies would like him to ramp up slower this season, hoping he won't have a relapse of the right shoulder inflammation that cost him a month last season. The veteran right-hander's next outing will come on Thursday against the Indians in Winter Haven or Friday against the Red Sox in Clearwater. He won't throw on back-to-back days until the final week of the spring, and manager Charlie Manuel would like to see him throw 25-30 pitches. Manuel knows Gordon's health is paramount to the team's success, and the skipper plans to be careful with his All-Star closer, who was the league's best stopper in the first half of 2006. Manuel has said he won't use Gordon three days in row, or for more than one inning. Though Gordon understands his manager's concern, he's preparing for a 162-game season. "If I feel great, I expect to pitch," Gordon said recently. "I have to be smart and want to help this team in every situation. I'm not going to look forward to taking a day off. It will take four or five days for me to say I don't feel too good." Gordon also figures that the depth of the team's starting rotation should spill over and help the bullpen. "We believe we have a very good rotation," Gordon said. "Our starters are going to have to set the tone. They know the first couple months is key." As a veteran, Gordon has heard the banter regarding Brett Myers' move to the bullpen in lieu of a suitable exchange for No. 6 starter Jon Lieber. Myers has volunteered for bullpen duty, if necessary. Gordon won't think about that. "I don't have any thoughts about that," Gordon said. "It is what it is. I'll let the team decide that. I just try to take care of me." A bullpen with Myers would be interesting, at least. "Let's just say it would be lively," Gordon said with a laugh.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.