TAMPA, Fla. -- As a third round of cuts occurred Monday morning, Clay Condrey and Jim Ed Warden dressed for a road trip to Tampa. Though neither reliever pitched in the 5-1 loss to the Yankees -- dropping the Phillies to 9-16-2 -- each may have done enough to secure the final two bullpen spots. "Maybe they just haven't found me yet [to send me to Triple-A], you know?" Condrey said. "I'm camouflaged pretty good."
Philadelphia optioned lefties Eude Brito and Fabio Castro to Minor League camp, leaving Condrey, Warden, J.A. Happ and Zack Segovia competing for two spots, assuming Jon Lieber opens the season on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. Because Happ and Segovia are viewed as starters and have a combined six Triple-A innings (all Happ), the team may turn to Condrey and Warden. Condrey's pitching has gotten him noticed. The righty has been scored on just once in his eight Grapefruit League outings, though he surrendered five earned runs in that outing against the Devil Rays. He has posted a 4.22 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, with three walks and seven strikeouts. Warden, 27, spent last season with the Indians, posting a 2.90 ERA in 55 games with Double-A Akron. As a Rule 5 Draft pick, he must either make the Phillies 25-man roster out of Spring Training or be offered back to Cleveland. The righty has thrown 6 1/3 innings this spring, allowing four earned runs. "My mindset is to make it as hard a decision as possible," Warden said. "I didn't want to come here for two weeks, show them nothing and get sent back. I think I showed them something about what I can do. I'm just trying to prove that I can be a Major League pitcher." Condrey, 31, can't be sent to the Minors without passing through waivers. He emerged from a crowded field and would likely fill the long-man role. He credited a mechanical adjustment made at the beginning of the 2006 season in helping him regain lost velocity. He compiled a 3.18 ERA with Philadelphia last season, though opponents batted .318 against him. If Condrey makes the team, it will be the second time in his career that he opened a season on a Major League roster, and the first since 2003 (San Diego).
"I knew coming in that to make this team, I'd have to be close to perfect," Condrey said. "I'll do anything they ask."Manager Charlie Manuel remained non-committal, regardless of how it may look. "We still want to look at them," Manuel said. Lone lefty: With Brito and Castro having been sent to Triple-A Ottawa, Matt Smith is the only lefty left. Not one to celebrate what a symbolic spot on the Opening Day roster, the southpaw simply doing his job. He relieved Segovia with two outs in the fifth and pitched through the sixth, retired all four batters he faced: Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui. "It was the best he looked all spring," Manuel said. It came at the right time. By retiring three lefties, Smith is preparing to deal with the National League's top left-handed hitters, including Carlos Delgado, Barry Bonds, Todd Helton and Adam LaRoche. After pitching poorly in two of his first three outings, Smith has recovered nicely, going unscored upon in five of next six outings. "That was an awful week," Smith said. "I didn't have a fastball, a slider or control. It was pretty ugly and embarrassing. My control could be better, but my fastball and slider are getting there. As long as I'm ready for Opening Day, I'll be happy." Despite how this outing looks, and despite the fact that he's the only remaining southpaw reliever, Smith refuses to stay calm. "We still have a week to go," he said. "I'm not going to feel comfortable until I'm on that Opening Day roster. A lot of things can happen. I've been around long enough to know you can pick a guy up off waivers or trade. I'm not going to relax." As evidence, one only needed to see a humorous moment when he reacted disgustedly to a slider thrown to Rodriguez. Smith's reaction suggested a long home run had just been surrendered, but instead Rodriguez swung and missed for strike three. Smith was upset with the pitch's location. "I was so mad about throwing my slider, hanging it or leaving it up," he said. "I'm a competitor, and if something doesn't go well I'm going to look like an idiot. I'm hard on myself. I know sometimes I look like a clown, but I don't do it on purpose. That's just me." What about Happ and Segovia?: Happ is scheduled to face the Pirates on Thursday, while Segovia is slated to make a Minor League start on Saturday, where he'll be stretched out in case he's needed to start. That "just in case" outing could be on April 7 or 8 in Philadelphia. Freddy Garcia played catch for the second straight day Monday and has a bullpen session scheduled for Tuesday. If all goes well, he could start on March 29 or later, pitch in an extended Spring Training in early April, then start the fourth or fifth game of the season. If he can't, Segovia could be the backup plan to the backup plan (Lieber). Segovia allowed five runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings to the Yankees on Tuesday, and he retired 11 in a row after surrendering a first-inning home run to Rodriquez. Expected to begin the season with Triple-A Ottawa, he might receive a gift. "I'm sure just taking it day by day, still pitching and trying to get people out," he said. "That's what I'm doing." Remembering Vuk: While the black "VUK" patch will remain on the uniform jerseys for the 2007 season, the Phillies will remember John Vukovich in other ways. The club will hold a pregame ceremony on Opening Day, where they will observe a moment of silence for organist Paul Richardson, pitcher Cory Lidle, outfielder Johnny Callison and Vukovich, all members of the Phillies family who have passed away since the 2006 regular season ended. Vince Vukovich, Vuk's 26-year-old son and a former catcher in the Phillies farm system, will toss out the ceremonial first pitch. "VUK" will be painted in the third-base coach's box for the first three home games of the 2007 season. Vuk's uniform jersey with a black arm band will hang in the lobby of Citizens Bank Park. On Tuesday, the team will present the inaugural John Vukovich Award to a member of the instructional staff, Majors or Minors, who exemplifies Vuk's characteristics of being a fierce competitor, having a terrific work ethic and showing loyalty and honesty. Quotable: "I'd rather have a bad spring than a bad April. You could say there is a lot of media [attention] and a lot more questions. Yeah, I had a good Spring Training [in 2006]. This year, it's not like that Spring Training and everybody expects it to be that way. Well, I have news for you: It's not always cookies and cream." -- Ryan Howard, who went 0-for-3 on Monday, dropping his spring average to .218 Philling in: Non-roster invitees Brennan King and Dusty Wathan were reassigned to Minor League camp, leaving 36 players. ... Infielder Brent Abernathy, right-hander Joe Bisenius and outfielder Ron Calloway were told that they won't make the Opening Day roster, but they will travel with the club for this weekend's On-Deck Series against the Red Sox. Final rosters must be submitted to the Commissioner's Office by April 1 at 3 p.m. ET. ... Aaron Rowand returned from a three-day hiatus, and he went 0-for-1 with a walk and was hit by a pitch. He's batting .169 this spring. Up next: The Phillies will play their final night game of the spring on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Reds, with Jamie Moyer scheduled for his final start for the Florida portion of Spring Training. The veteran has a 3.72 ERA in five Grapefruit League outings. He'll likely start one of the two On-Deck Series games at Citizens Bank Park as a final tune-up for the regular season.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.