Former Phillies Fighting For Major League Jobs

The Phillies made a couple of key deals this off-season, getting Eric Milton from Minnesota and Billy Wagner from Houston. In those deals, the Phillies gave up some pretty decent prospects, who are fighting for jobs with their new teams. In addition to the players that the Phillies traded, there are a couple other former Phillies who are looking to head north with major league teams and are waging battles for jobs this spring.

The Phillies started their bullpen reconstruction plan by striking a deal with Houston to get closer Billy Wagner. The deal seemingly came out of the blue and started an off-season that was destined to be one of the more active and productive in quite a while. The deal included two young pitchers with definite potential.

Brandon Duckworth had opportunities to pitch in the majors with the Phillies and never quite looked ready. Last season, he was the odd man out who was skipped over as the Phillies fifth starter. Eventually, even Larry Bowa admitted that skipping a young pitcher who was trying to feel his way through the National League might not have been the correct path to follow. Now, as part of the Billy Wagner deal, Duckworth has new life with the Houston Astros. Duckworth has made one appearance for Houston this spring and threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk. The Astros, with a revamped starting rotation that includes Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens may not have a starting job for Duckworth, but they might be able to keep him around in their bullpen. The Astros have talked about Duckworth as a middle-inning reliever or possibly settling into a role later in the game as one of the setup men for new closer Octavio Dotel.

Taylor Buchholz may have been the real prize for Houston in the Wagner deal. The young right-hander was 9-11, 3.55 at AA Reading last season and figures to start the year at AAA for Houston. When he became an Astro, the 22 year old Buchholz instantly jumped to the top of the list of pitching prospects in the Astros organization. There is good news and bad news for Buchholz. He has pitched just one inning and struck out the side – that's the good news. In that inning though, he allowed three runs, giving him a 27.00 ERA for his trouble. The Astros are basically just getting a look at Buchholz and don't figure that he'll be sticking with the club. If all goes well during the regular season, Buchholz may get a look at the majors with a September callup.

Ezequiel Astacio, the other member of the trio of pitchers that the Phillies sent to Houston in the Wagner deal, has pitched one perfect inning for Houston this spring. Astacio was 15-5, 3.29 at Clearwater and has no shot at making the Astros, but is a key part of their future pitching staff.

The other key deal sent Carlos Silva and Nick Punto to Minnesota for Eric Milton. Oddly enough, Silva and Milton started against each other in Tuesday's spring training game. Silva is fighting for a spot in the Twins rotation after pitching primarily as a reliever for the Phillies. All is going well for Silva, who is working on a changeup this spring to go along with his sinker, slider and fastball. "I feel very comfortable with this team. I think I have a better chance here," admitted Silva after facing his old buddies from Philly. The Twins have been happy with Silva, who has a 1.80 ERA in five innings with the Twins this spring, including allowing one earned run in three innings against the Phillies on Tuesday.

Nick Punto is looking to stick with the Twins as a utility player. The speedy infielder got a chance to come off the Phillies bench last season and figures to have a decent shot with the youth minded Twins. Punto has gone 3-8 (.375) in three games with Minnesota this spring and even clubbed a homerun.

Minnesota will hopefully be the new mailing address for another former Phillie, Joe Roa. After bouncing around, Roa is hoping to stick with the Twins, probably as a part of their bullpen. This spring has been an impressive one for Roa, who has pitched three innings, striking out five and allowing just one hit – a homerun – to post a 3.00 ERA in his battle for a bullpen spot.

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