PBN Notebook: Abbott & Costello Time in Reading

Are two key Phillies waking up as the weather warms up? In Scranton, there's help for the bullpen, but not for A.J. Hinch. The R-Phils put a new twist on a comedy classic and in Clearwater, the pitching is the problem in a four game skid. Plus, Lakewood has their own ups and downs to deal with.

Philadelphia Phillies  22-26 6.5 GB

Remember this time last year? Jimmy Rollins had a horrible April, hitting just .183 before turning up the heat in May. In the merry month of May last year, Rollins hit .280 to pull his season average to .242 and start what would become somewhat of a breakout season for himself. The biggest change was that he stopped trying to hit homeruns and just looked to get on-base.

Now, fast forward one year. Rollins hit .253 this April and is again turning up the heat. While he has hit just .273 this May, he is showing signs of returning to the form that propelled him last summer. His 4-for-5 night against the Marlins on Wednesday made him 9-for-14 (.643) this week. His season average is up to .265 and climbing.

By the way, Rollins hit .320 last June.

May has been very good for Randy Wolf. After getting off to a slow start in April (1-3, 6.52), Wolf has turned things around with a strong May performance. His win Wednesday night over the Marlins gave him a 2-1, 2.77 mark for the month. He is set to start next Tuesday against the Giants on the last day of the month, and looks to make his month even better.

Pat Burrell insists his sore wrist is no big issue. The concern is that the explanation has changed slightly. At first, he insisted that the injury wasn't in the area of the tendon that he injured last season, causing him to miss a month of action. After leaving Wednesday night's game because of soreness in the wrist, he changed the tune a little. "The tendon that was the problem was coming in and out of the sheath," Burrell said. "That hasn't stopped since it happened. It happens every time I swing. It doesn't hurt. But when I jammed my wrist Saturday, it created some trauma in that area, and that's what bothers me. It's fine." You have to worry a little when stories start to change.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons  19-26 9.0 GB

Things may get interesting behind the plate for the Red Barons. First, Carlos Ruiz went down with an injury and Tim Gradoville was added to backup A.J. Hinch. Now, Reading's Chico Cortez is hurt and Gradoville was shipped back to Reading. So, who backs up Hinch? John Castellano and Chris Coste figure to be the nominees, although neither has been behind the plate this season. The plan is to go with no official backup until Ruiz returns to active duty.

Yoel Hernandez is headed for Scranton. After Tuesday night's game, Hernandez was officially promoted to AAA, where he pitched in 14 games last season. It's likely that Hernandez would have started the season with the Red Barons if not for some elbow issues that forced him to start the year on the DL and progress from Clearwater to Reading to Scranton. It appears that Hernandez is recovered from his elbow inflammation and is ready to resume his trip toward Philadelphia. Hernandez was a combined 1-2, 4.21 in 34 games last season with Scranton and Reading. All but two of his games were in relief; his two starts came while he was at Scranton. Earlier in his career, Hernandez was a starter, but the plan is to keep him working out of the bullpen at this point.

With the return of Ryan Howard, Jim Rushford moved from first base to right field. His offensive streak didn't disappear though. He's now hit in 13 straight, going 21-for-52 (.404) in the stretch. Howard meanwhile is 0-for-6 since returning to Scranton.

Reading Phillies 20-26 6.0 GB

It was a bit of an odd scene Monday night at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading. With Chico Cortez hurt and no replacement in town yet, manager Steve Swisher had to do some gambling. Trent Pratt (the starting catcher) walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth of a tie game with Harrisburg and Swisher, hoping to win the game with a run, sent second baseman Carlos Leon in to pinch-run. To make a long story short, the R-Phils didn't score and the game went extra innings. With no other catchers available, Leon wound up behind the plate. That lasted one inning and then Swisher decided to put Brian Hitchcox behind the plate. Hitchcox is also an infielder, but seems to fit in anywhere and everywhere. And oh yeah, that meant that somebody else had to play second. Out comes pitcher Mike Smith. If you're picturing Abbott and Costello's Who's On First? routine, you should be. By the way, we forgot to mention that pitcher Allen Davis pinch-hit for pitcher Travis Minix in the ninth and put down a bunt to move Leon to second. Of course, it all fell apart in the fourteenth when Harrisburg picked up four runs to win 7-3. Wow!

Speaking of Minix; he has now thrown 7 1/3 consecutive shutout innings for Reading. The 27 year old Minix, who was signed as a minor league free agent out of the Tampa Bay organization, has been a nice find, going 0-1, 2.37 in 19 games for Reading.

With Yoel Hernandez headed for Scranton, Francisco Butto will join Reading. Butto, who had a 3.49 ERA at Clearwater this season was 5-11, 4.85 in 36 games - 14 starts - at Clearwater last season.

Clearwater Threshers 11-34 20 1/2 GB

After appearing to be pulling out of a season long slide, Clearwater has now lost four straight again, falling even further off the pace. Two of those four losses have been by one run, with one game being extra innings. In the other two games though, the Threshers lost 17-6 and 9-3. During the four game skid, the Threshers are hitting .302 as a team and have four homeruns and 15 runs scored. Obviously, it's not the offense. The pitchers have a combined ERA of 7.75 through the four losses. Starters have a combined ERA of 6.52 and have pitched 19 1/3 innings. That includes five shutout innings by Scott Mathieson against Jupiter on Monday.

Eric Glaser got permission to leave the team for three days to attend his girlfriend's graduation. When he returned, he was told to leave again - permanently. Glaser was released after posting an 0-7, 7.44 record.

Lakewood BlueClaws  15-32 14.5 GB

Joe Bisenius threw three shutout innings against Hagerstown in his first game back at Lakewood on May 20th. In his next start though, he was again roughed up just as he had been before being sent out to extended spring camp. Bisenius lasted four innings, giving up four runs on six hits and four walks against Charleston, S.C. Wednesday night. Bisenius is a combined 0-2, 8.44 with Lakewood. There is no doubt that he's got a lot of potential, but Bisenius hasn't been able to find consistency so far.

Carl Galloway is picking up the pace. When he first joined Lakewood, he looked a little overmatched at the plate. Not anymore. He has a six game hitting streak and is 7-for-22 (.318) during the streak. He has upped his season average to .213 with Lakewood. Doug Gredvig also has a six game hitting streak and is 9-for-23 (.391) over his last six games.

J.A. Happ (3-2, 2.27) was victimized by some weak defense Tuesday night. A catcher's interference call on Derek Brant helped Lake County to score three unearned runs in the first inning. Happ got the first two hitters in the second inning, but was then lifted in favor of Jason Martinez. In all, Happ went 1 2/3 innings, giving up three unearned runs on two hits, one walk and one hit batter. He used strikeouts to notch three of the five outs that he recorded.

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