Notes: Eaton would prefer to start

Notes: Eaton would prefer to start

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Adam Eaton can count to six, so he understands the vexing situation facing the Phillies.

If Jon Lieber isn't traded -- which still may happen -- one of the Phils' six established starters may wind up pitching out of the bullpen to start the season.

It won't be lefties Cole Hamels or Jamie Moyer. Freddy Garcia? Not a chance. Brett Myers has offered, but that will only happen in an emergency. That leaves Lieber or Eaton, who signed a three-year, $24.5 million deal in November and would rather not move to the 'pen.

"I was brought in to be a starting pitcher, and I'd like to be a starting pitcher somewhere," Eaton said. "I'll do whatever, but I'm pretty sure they signed me here as a free-agent starting pitcher, not a free-agent reliever, especially with the money I'm making."

Eaton is correct. The Phillies don't intend on making him a reliever, but they'll have to do something. With many team searching for starting pitching, the team is quietly confident that something will work itself out.

Eaton allowed the Rays two runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday, reaching his desired goal of 70-75 pitches. He'd much rather discuss his NCAA Tournament picks (he selected Ohio State to win it all) than the potential odd-man out situation with the Phils.

"Make sure you still have that cart behind the bull and not have that cart pulling the bull," Eaton said. "Let's wait until we get there."

Gordon still fine: Tom Gordon returned to Clearwater on Tuesday, after a routine checkup with team doctor Michael Ciccotti.

"He's back and looking dapper," said pitching coach Rich Dubee, repeatedly offering that response when asked about Gordon's health.

General manager Pat Gillick, assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel all said there was no reason to worry about the health of the team's closer, who hasn't missed a scheduled throwing session yet this spring.

The goal here is to ramp up Gordon slower than last spring, when Dubee thought he went, "too fast, too soon."

Gordon will likely throw Thursday or Friday, and he could pitch in a game this weekend.

First taste: No. 92 squinted into an unforgiving sunlight searching for a familiar face. Unsuccessful in this endeavor, he headed to the cage for his first Grapefruit League batting practice.

With his girlfriend snapping photos from the crowd, Adrian Cardenas finished his first round, and showed in the second round why he was selected 37th overall in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He pelted a few solid drives to right and center, then deposited one over the right-field wall at Progress Energy Park.

Considering that at this time last year Cardenas was a senior at Monsignor Pace High School in Miami, Fla., his invitation to play in Tuesday's game represented a thrill. He couldn't sleep Monday night, and his parents arrived from Miami on Monday night so they could see him play, getting the "Phillies rate" at the Buena Vista Motel in Clearwater, Fla., where many of the Minor Leaguers bunk.

The pride swelled in the bottom of the seventh, when bench coach Jimy Williams put No. 92 in the game.

"I wasn't nervous throughout the game, but when [Williams] called on me, I had chills through my body," Cardenas said.

The chills likely caused him to boot the first ball sent his way, an easy play that should've resulted in at least a fielder's choice.

"I tried to rush it and be too perfect," Cardenas said.

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He was in the on-deck circle when Chris Coste flew to center for the final out of the ninth, so his first at-bat will have to wait.

In less than a year, Cardenas went from being the second-best player on his high school team -- behind top-tier talent and eventual Nationals first-rounder Chris Marrero -- to the No. 3 prospect in the Phillies' organization, according to Baseball America. After leading Monsignor Pace to a state title with a .647 average, he was named BA's High School Player of the Year.

Marrero's presence helped motivate him.

"I used that as incentive to work harder," he said. "If it wasn't for him, we probably wouldn't have had so many [scouts] at the games, and I wouldn't have gotten drafted where I got drafted. Everything has a funny way of working out."

His motivation now?

"When you walk into Spring Training, there's 155 players," Cardenas said. "It doesn't matter if you were a first-round [pick] or last-round [pick], there's competition. Day in and day out, you have to bust your [rear end]. I don't think you ever forget that. The best thing you can do is work your hardest."

After signing for $925,000, his compact swing produced a .318 average in 154 Gulf Coast League at-bats, with two homers, 21 RBIs and 13 stolen bases, numbers which earned him a spot on the Gulf Coast League All-Star team. A shortstop last year, he'll likely play second base at Class A Lakewood this spring.

Still years away from the big leagues, Cardenas doesn't need to worry about the fact that Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins might be Phillies for their entire careers. His No. 1 focus is gaining as much knowledge as possible.

"[People in the organization have] told me to loosen up and act like a sponge and soak up anything," Cardenas said. "I can learn a lot from [Rollins and Utley]. Hopefully, I can play with them soon. A few years down the road, we'll see what happens."

That was nothing: Hearing Cardenas discuss his error on the first ball he saw, outfielder Michael Bourn laughed.

"That's nothing," he said. "I've had some screw ups."

Bourn can't possibly forget his Grapefruit League debut. Specifically, Bourn remembers March 12, 2005, when he was called up for his first game against the Yankees. He singled in his first at-bat, but he had a much more memorable occurrence later in the game.

He lost a routine fly ball in the sun. It smacked off his mouth and wound up being an inside-the-park homer for Bubba Crosby. Bourn feels stronger now because of it.

"I felt good at first, because I got a hit," Bourn said. "The next thing I know, the ball is coming out to me. I lost it in the sun, but didn't want to run away and act like I couldn't see it, but I knew I couldn't see it. I was just lucky it didn't do a lot of damage to my face.

"You're going to make mistakes, but you can't be scared to make them. If you are scared, you're always going to be tentative."

Quotable: "I think it was triple digits." -- Dubee, joking about the highest number he wore in Spring Training

Philling in: Outfielder Ron Calloway launched a grand slam off Dan Miceli on Tuesday, and is hitting .333 this spring. ... Dubee won't have much of a day off on Wednesday. First, he'll monitor Moyer's side session, then drive to Dunedin to watch his son pitch against the Blue Jays.

Up next: After a day off Wednesday, Hamels is scheduled to start Thursday's 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Blue Jays. In his first spring with a guaranteed rotation spot, the lefty was brilliant is his first outing, but he struggled the second time out.

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