Inside Pitch: Abreu Sits Against Willis

Charlie Manuel said before the season that he didn't want to have right fielder Bobby Abreu playing 162 games in 2006. Last season, Abreu struggled in the second-half and was nagged by a bevy of aches and pains, yet didn't miss a game.

Monday night, Bobby Abreu was out of the starting lineup for the first time this season. Despite the team's lousy showing, Abreu had the best April of his career, setting opening-month highs in RBIs (20), runs scored (19), walks (24), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.550).

However, with southpaw Dontrelle Willis on the mound for the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium, Manuel thought it was the right time to give both Abreu and first baseman Ryan Howard a break from the rash of lefties the Phils are facing on this road trip.

"I thought about playing Bobby," said Manuel, noting that Abreu's .265 career average against Willis is a competitive number. "But if I want to keep him strong, especially in the back end of the season, I want to give him enough days off.

"I know he doesn't like to sit. I love that about him, but at the same time, I want to keep him strong the whole year. I also want to get (Shane) Victorino in a game every now and then.

"If I'm going to give (Abreu and Howard) a day off, then it's best to do it against Dontrelle."

REPLAY: Shortstop Jimmy Rollins caught Florida second baseman Dan Uggla napping and raced home from third with the tying run in the seventh inning and Pat Burrell's solo homer put the Phillies ahead for good as they recovered from a four-run deficit against Dontrelle Willis to beat the Marlins, 8-5.

Rollins scored after outfielder Shane Victorino blooped a two-run single that fell just out of the reach of Uggla. When the rookie jogged back to the infield with the ball and softly tossed it to Willis, Rollins took off and beat the throw. Rheal Cormier got the win by inducing an inning-ending double play in the seventh, while closer Tom Gordon pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save of the season.


  • INF Alex Gonzalez, mired in a 1-for-21 skid for the season, got his second hit of the season in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 8-5 win when his blooper to shallow right fell in for an RBI single. "That was something I needed," said Gonzalez, who started at first base in place of 1B Ryan Howard, who sat with LHP Dontrelle Willis on the mound. "I've hit some balls hard lately, but I didn't have anything to show for it."
  • OF Pat Burrell's eighth homer of the season off Dontrelle Willis was the game-winning hit for the Phils. Even though Burrell is hitting only .212 with runners in scoring position, he leads the team with 22 RBI.
  • RHP Chris Booker, the Rule 5 selection who has been pitching a month-long rehab stint in the minors, is still missing oomph on his fastball, according to the reports manager Charlie Manuel received. "He's been throwing his fastball 88-to-91 (mph)," Manuel said. "Last year, he was throwing it 92-to-95. We're going to give him more work (in Triple-A) and he'll get there." Booker can pitch on a rehab until May 11.
  • RHP Julio Santana, on the 15-day disabled list with an intestinal virus, will make a rehabilitation appearance for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.
  • RHP Tom Gordon picked up his seventh save Tuesday. He has struck out 19 in 11 2/3 innings pitched this season and hasn't allowed a hit to a leadoff batter in his 12 appearances.

    Two homecomings received negative responses Monday, but a better-received return could be coming soon.

  • Johnny Damon, the chief "idiot" on Boston's 2004 World Series champion team, received more boos than cheers when he returned to Fenway Park wearing pinstripes. Damon won some of the crowd over by doffing his batting helmet. The Boston boo-birds had the last laugh - Damon wound up 0-for-4, and the Red Sox beat the Yankees 7-3.
  • Jim Thome, an integral part of Cleveland's AL championship squads in 1995 and 1997, made his first appearance in Jacobs Field while wearing an opposing uniform. The fact that he is now with the White Sox and not the team that signed him away from Cleveland, the Phillies, mattered little to Indians fans, who let him have it all night.

    "Brutal," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think it's really disappointing. I even saw on TV that (Johnny) Damon was getting applause (in Boston). I think Jim Thome did a lot for this team and city. The way he played here for them, people should tip their hat and say thank you."

    Thome finished 1-for-5, but his RBI single helped Chicago beat Cleveland 8-6.

  • Roger Clemens, now free to sign with any team, might be ready to listen to the Astros' bid. Houston general manager Tim Purpura was arranging a meeting with agents for the right-hander, who might make a run at Sugar Ray Leonard's record for most retirement announcements.

    The Astros didn't offer Clemens arbitration in December, so they were prohibited from negotiating with him until Monday. Now that they are back in the game, they are wasting little time.

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