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Notes: Germano earning a spot

Notes: Colorful Germano earning a spot

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The first thing you notice about Justin Germano is one of seven tattoos strategically placed on his body.

Whether it's the cross on his left shoulder, the tribal bands around his ankle and on his back, the two kanji (Japanese) symbols that mean strength and courage, or the word "Germ" on his back, it's hard for the artwork not to be the subject of conversation.

"When I got my first one, the [tattoo artist] had a sign that read, 'Welcome to your new addiction,'" Germano said, laughing. "That always stood out, because I always say each one is my last."

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He's proudest of his newest decoration, the word "Amituofo" written vertically along his right torso. The word is uttered by Buddhists when they meditate. Germano recently discovered a book on the subject and adapted some of the beliefs to baseball.

"It helps them relax and find peace," he said. "It helps me clear my mind on the mound and focus. I'm not a Buddhist, but I admire the way they find peace. I thought it was something I needed. I improved once I started reading that stuff. It calms me."

He says "Amituofo" three times before the start of each inning, after throwing his final warm-up toss. It had been working this spring, until the right-hander got tattooed Thursday by the Blue Jays, hurting his quest for one of two bullpen jobs. In eight innings over five appearances, he's allowed four runs on 10 hits, while striking out nine and walking two.

A starter exclusively throughout his career, he realizes that his only ticket to the Phillies is via the bullpen.

"He has to show he can throw his breaking ball for strikes," manager Charlie Manuel said, who also wants to make sure Germano can pitch multiple days in a row. "We'll wait and see."

Right-hander Joe Bisenius has also thrown well in camp, but none of the other candidates have distinguished themselves. It might as well be Germano.

"I'm trying not to put any extra pressure on myself," Germano said. "I'm trying to put the pressure on them. I have to go out there and have the best spring I can. There's no stress or added pressure."

Should he make the team, he'll be happy to know there are plenty of tattoo parlors in Philadelphia. While he won't get a full sleeve -- think Motley Crue's Tommy Lee -- he can't guarantee his mom and girlfriend that he'll stop at seven.

"I'm trying to back off, but I don't make any promises. My mom always asks, 'Is this the last one?'"

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Lesson learned: As Cole Hamels works to establish the inside part of the plate, he's learning that hitters will make him pay for mistakes.

"When you throw a mistake, they'll capitalize on it, and they'll put it out instead of popping it up or missing it," Hamels said after giving up three homers to the Blue Jays on Thursday. "If you want to come in, you have to know what type of hitters they have. That team can definitely hit fastballs."

Because that's true of any team, Hamels knows he has work to do. Opponents already know about Hamels' unfair changeup, so Hamels needs to establish the inside so he can then exploit the outside better.

Reed Johnson led off the game with a homer off Hamels, and Vernon Wells hit two -- all on inside pitches.

"I wasn't completely missing," Hamels said. "I was throwing it over, maybe a little inside. It was either a strike or, obviously, a home run. I wasn't getting it in far enough."

Hamels allowed three homers in 201 Minor League innings and 19 in 132 1/3 innings during his rookie season. During the regular season, Hamels will continue to pitch inside, and it may lead to a few hit batters. But Spring Training isn't the time for that.

"When guys don't buy into the whole inside thing, you have to warn them," Hamels said. "I'm not going to go head hunting, but it's part of the game. You have to have control of all sides of the plate. You have to be in their head."

Gordon still fine: Tom Gordon felt like a star when a photographer met him at Philadelphia International Airport -- a side effect of his flying north for a checkup.

"It was funny," Gordon said. "I really felt like somebody important."

With the hullabaloo over, Gordon returned to Clearwater, Fla., on Tuesday, and plans to get back to work. He played catch on Thursday and said he plans to throw a bullpen session on Friday and pitch Saturday against the Yankees.

Gordon has tossed two scoreless innings this spring, allowing two hits and striking out two.

An important Vukovich lesson: Jimmy Rollins is anything but routine. He typically has the most stylish clothing, eyewear and neckwear. With varied interests, he's always in tune with what's popular.

When it comes to fielding, he's all about routine. For that, he thanks longtime Phillies coach John Vukovich.

"He said, 'Make the routine plays look routine,'" Rollins said. "That stuck with me. I hate that it did, but I like it."

Rollins joked that he "hates" it because he hasn't won a Gold Glove yet, but there's no discounting the fact that Rollins made 20, 26, 29, 22 and 26 errors in his five Minor League seasons. With Vukovich pounding fungos at the Major League level, his defense improved dramatically. Rollins made 14 errors in each of his first three seasons, then nine, 12 and 11.

Thanks, Vuk.

"I see guys turn routine plays into Web Gems. I can't do that," said Rollins, who admits to being flashier in the Minors. "The first couple of [years working with Vukovich], I was like, 'Why are you picking on me?' Then it became fun because I knew I was getting better. From the beginning, he wasn't going to let you cut any corners. You came to work until you did it 100 percent right, then slap hands at the end."

Philling in: The Lakewood BlueClaws, the Phillies' Class A affiliate, and Troconero Phillies received their championship rings before Thursday's game. The BlueClaws took the 2006 South Atlantic League Championship, while Troconero captured the 2006 Venezuelan Summer League title. ... Aaron Rowand and Jayson Werth hit their first home runs of the spring against the Blue Jays on Thursday. Rowand had drag racer Tommy Johnson Jr. as his guest before the game. Johnson took batting practice on the field.

Up next: Freddy Garcia heads to Lakeland, Fla., on Friday to face the defending American League champion Tigers and Mike Maroth in a 1:05 p.m. ET start. The right-hander allowed three runs in three innings in his only other Grapefruit League outing. Jon Lieber will pitch in a Minor League game in St. Petersburg.

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

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