CLEARWATER, Fla. — Austin Hyatt, 25 and unassuming, has a modest goal for 2012: He wants to pitch at triple-A Lehigh Valley.
"That would be the next step along the progression, I guess," Hyatt said, "so hopefully I end up there."
On Wednesday he was bestowed the honor of starting the Phillies' first exhibition game of the spring. In a 6-1 victory over Florida State University, Hyatt tossed two scoreless innings and struck out three. It was his first time pitching in front of Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee, and for a pitcher who won't have many chances this spring to make an impression, he was pleased.
"That's the main thing," Hyatt said. "It is exciting pitching in front of those guys because you want to go out there and do your best."
What is your reaction to the Phillies’ Ryan Howard suffering a setback in his recovery from Achilles tendon surgery?
"He threw fine," Dubee said.
Hyatt is significant mostly because he could be the lone homegrown starting pitcher at triple A in 2012. The rest of the rotation could be filled with veterans like Joel Pineiro, Dave Bush, Nate Bump and Pat Misch.
Hyatt, a 23d round pick in 2004, made 28 starts for double-A Reading in 2011 and posted a 3.85 ERA with a solid 3.49 strikeout-to-walk ratio. A season before that, he was named the Florida State League pitcher of the year.
He doesn't have overpowering stuff; normally his fastball tops at 92 or 93 m.p.h. Hyatt said developing a better slider in addition to his fastball and change-up is a priority.
His next assignment is a step up from college kids. He'll face the New York Yankees in Monday's game. For now, he'll enjoy the feeling of big-league spring training.
"It's a great honor," Hyatt said. "It's fun and exciting to be in this clubhouse. So hopefully I can keep coming back in here instead of the minor-league side."
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