Duckworth Looks Strong In Latest Clearwater Outing

The Phillies insist that they haven't made a decision on when Brandon Duckworth would return to the rotation, but obviously, that day is getting nearer. The Phillies right-hander pitched for Clearwater Friday night and could be back in Philadelphia for a start late in the week.

Brandon Duckworth was still on a strict pitch count when he took the mound for the Clearwater Phillies Friday night, but he was inching closer to a return to the big league club. Four and two-third innings later, Duckworth had seemingly turned inches into feet with another solid outing.

If there was any downside, it was that Duckworth needed 75 pitches and didn't even finish the fifth inning. Duckworth had worked this spring with new pitching coach Joe Kerrigan to reduce his pitch count, but the Phillies aren't concerned as much about that right now as they are about simply getting Duckworth ready to return to Philadelphia.

The Jupiter Hammerheads, the Florida State League version of the Florida Marlins, managed just one earned run off of Duckworth. The Hammerheads got just two hits - one of them a homerun - off Duckworth, who struck out six and walked just one.

The Phillies will need to make some decisions on what comes next. They might bring Duckworth north to take his spot in the starting rotation or could possibly have him make at least one more rehab start at a higher level than Clearwater. If Duckworth is activated from the DL, the question then becomes how the Phillies make room on the roster. Joe Roa (0-2) has struggled and will likely be replaced in the rotation by Duckworth. It's also likely that Roa would move to the bullpen since he is out of options and the Phillies would risk losing him if they tried to send him to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. The odd man out will probably be Eric Junge who was recalled last weekend to give Larry Bowa some needed bullpen depth.

The Phillies considered having Duckworth start at either AA or AAA Friday night but left him in Clearwater because of the better weather conditions. Considering that Reading was rained out and Scranton played in cold, damp weather in Syracuse, it was a good decision.

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