Juan Pierre batted leadoff and played center field for a split squad of Phillies, coming through with two hits, two RBIs and scored two runs in two innings of a 6-6 tie with the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. "I got a chance to lead off today the first time this spring and to actually play center field which I haven't done in a couple of years so it felt like old times out there for me, so I felt comfortable," the 34-year-old Pierre said.
"That's my goal when I lead off games, trying to get stuff started early."
Pierre, a non-roster invitee in his 13th season, said he's approaching this spring training as he would any other. "Even when I had deals I had to go out and prove myself to start still,'' he said. ''I just try to approach it like pretty much every spring training. Try to get my work in and be ready to play whenever they need me."
Also competing for a spot as a non-roster invitee, Joel Pineiro pitched two innings, giving up one run on two hits and a walk. He had one strikeout.
"Every time you get out there you feel better and better," Pineiro said. "My command was a little off today. My off-speed was really good. I was getting behind hitters, I threw too many pitches, so that's something to keep working on, trying to do whatever they want me to do coming out of the pen or start. I still got to go out and prove I can get people out. There's no room for error. You've got to go out there and have a good outing."
Phillies 6, Braves 4
Dontrelle Willis pumped his fist with the enthusiasm of a guy getting a meaningful out late in the season, and then blessed himself and pointed to the sky as he walked off the mound.
The D-Train is still in service.
It was an encouraging outing for Willis after he got rocked and left his last appearance because of arm tightness and fatigue. Willis, a former 22-game winner, is trying to resurrect his career in a new role as a lefty specialist in the bullpen.
"I took some tips from some guys," Willis said. "I definitely warmed up a lot better. I slowed myself down. I felt a lot better out there. Just learning the learning curve."
Willis walked the first batter he faced then retired Jason Heyward on a flyball and retired Tyler Pastornicky on a double-play grounder.
"That was a big play," Willis said. "That's the kind of situation that I'll get put in and I'm facing guys I might face in the big leagues. I'm taking this task seriously because it's the first time I've done it."
Willis allowed five runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings in his first two spring appearances.
"Command is the biggest thing, if he commands his pitches," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's funky. He definitely has enough motion and stuff to be tough on lefties."
Matt Diaz and Dan Uggla hit solo homers for the Braves. Jair Jurrjens had a rough outing, allowing four runs and nine hits in four innings. Jurrjens went 12-3 in the first half last year and made his first All-Star team, but he didn't pitch during the final month of last season because of a bone bruise in his right knee.
Joe Blanton went five innings for Philadelphia, allowing three runs and four hits.
Podsednik had one of six run-scoring singles for the Phillies. He's competing for a roster spot and could earn playing time in left field.
NOTES: Manuel said "there's a good chance" Chase Utley will be in the lineup on opening day. Utley, the five-time All-Star second baseman, hasn't played this spring because of a knee injury that forced him to miss the first 47 games last year... Phillies right-hander Jose Contreras threw a scoreless inning in his second appearance in a minor league game. Contreras is coming off an injury-plagued season and could be a key part of the bullpen if healthy... OFs Domonic Brown and Laynce Nix were scratched from Philadelphia's split-squad lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays. Brown has a stiff neck and Nix is bothered by sore ribs.