IN FRONT of a concerned assemblage, Freddy Garcia yesterday threw his first serious bullpen session: 40 pitches, his entire repertoire, with plenty of pop and no discernable pain in his strained right biceps.
Afterward, the Phillies indicated that their key offseason addition probably will miss a start due to arm trouble for the first time in his 8-year career. More likely, given his projected rehab schedule, Garcia will miss at least two starts.
As expected, Garcia will open the season on the 15-day disabled list, but his schedule won't allow him to pitch in the majors for a while. He will throw another bullpen session tomorrow, then again on Wednesday, according to assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Garcia then would head back to Florida for extended spring work.
"We'll send him to Clearwater and start getting him into some rehab games," Amaro said. How many? One? Three? "We don't know yet. A lot of that will be dictated by how he feels."
Even one rehab start as early as Wednesday means that Garcia wouldn't be available to pitch until April 9, which means the Phillies would need a start from another pitcher on April 8 in Florida against the Marlins. It had been hoped that Garcia could start April 8 and slip into the rotation behind Opening Day starter Brett Myers, who, thanks to the Tuesday's off-day, could start again April 7.
Instead, the Phillies will play things cautiously, despite the fact that the witnesses to his session yesterday - Amaro, GM Pat Gillick, special adviser Dallas Green and pitching coach Rich Dubee - agreed that Garcia appeared to be well on his way to recovering from the injury. He had an 11.42 earned run average when he left the game after one inning in his March 21 start.
"Today was much better," said Dubee, comparing the bullpen session to Garcia's less-aggressive session Tuesday. "We'll see how he progresses."
The Phils don't know for sure who will start April 7 or 8 in Florida.
"Do we know? No." Dubee said. "We have an idea. We have options."
Chief among them is righthander Zack Segovia, 0-2 with a 4.30 ERA in four spring games, two of them starts. Segovia, 24 on April 11, missed most of 2003 and all of 2004 with elbow problems, but last season rebounded from surgery to combine for a 16-6 record and a 3.40 ERA in 23 starts at Class A and Double A.
Segovia eventually should settle at Triple A Ottawa this year, most likely after sixth starter Jon Lieber comes off the DL, where he will remain until he recovers from his oblique injury.
The Phillies only hope that Lieber progresses as nicely as Garcia has. They have plenty riding on his usually durable arm. They traded former first-round pick Gavin Floyd and promising lefthander Gio Gonzalez to the White Sox to rent Garcia for $10 million. He will be a free agent after the season.
They're being extra careful.
"We just want to make sure Freddy's ready," Amaro said. "We're not going to rush him along. We want him for 6 months. Preferably 7."
Red Sox 6, Phillies 5
It's a marvel even to Cole Hamels.
The lefthander surrendered four more home runs last night: solo shots to Manny Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew and a two-run bomb to Kevin Youkilis. That ran his spring total to nine, most in the majors.
"Dude," Hamels said, "I probably broke a record for a guy who gave up this many home runs and made a team."
Of course, Hamels, part of the late-season surge as a rookie last season, will start the second game of the season against visiting Atlanta on Wednesday despite his five-inning, five-run outing last night that set his ERA at 6.10, worst among the Phils' healthy starters.
Hamels mainly blamed throwing fastballs in breaking-ball counts but he allowed that the 86-mph fastball he dealt last night isn't what he wants to be dealing come Wednesday, when, he hopes, the moment will add 5 mph.
"It's always nice when the games matter and they have some intensity and adrenaline," Hamels said. "And that's something that's been lacking in me the last couple of months."
Among the struggling Phils, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell each went 1-for-3 but Aaron Rowand (.174) was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Wes Helms was 2-for-3 with a walk, raising his average to .385.
The Phillies scrapped for four runs in the ninth and left two on.
Righthander Joe Bisenius, who hasn't pitched above Double A, continued to shine out of the bullpen. He was perfect in the sixth, striking out Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell and getting J.D. Drew to pop out weakly in foul territory. His ERA fell to 1.50 with 11 strikeouts in 12 innings . . . Before last night's game the Phillies, suddenly health-conscious, met with a nutritionist for the second time this spring . . . Rightfielder Shane Victorino was excused yesterday to attend the birth of his daughter, Kali'a Makenna Victorino Smith, in Las Vegas. He will return in time for Monday's opener . . . The Phillies signed infielder Joe Thurston. He is expected to be assigned to Double A Reading . . . Today at 1:05 p.m. the teams play their spring finale. Phillies righthander Adam Eaton faces Red Sox righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has attracted 45 members of the Japanese media . . . About 1,500 seats plus standing room remain for today's game. *