Philadelphia Daily News from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 18, 2003 · Page 74
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Philadelphia Daily News from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Page 74

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Tuesday, March 18, 2003
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Birthday bash includes Thome HR UEi L3 Kr- "This is, like, the best thing that could happen!" Bryan Eberly, fan who found Jim Thome's home-run ball Bryan Eberly, on a birthday vacation, shows off home-run ball hit by Jim Thome. JENNIFER MIDBERRYDaily News Cormier still has a Rheal good chance to stick Harbingers The question of veteran lefty Rheal Cormier's future continues to arise after his rocky 2002 and his current 7.27 ERA. Phillies manager Larry Bowa refused to condemn Cormier, however, noting that Cormier was working on his changeup and curve and had not yet thrown his better pitch, the split-finger: "It doesn't matter down here. It does not matter." Cormier affirmed that he wasn't yet using his splitter and said he would begin throwing the splitter soon. He used it yesterday and gave up two runs in 1 innings. The best insurance for Cormier staying around: He costs $3.2 million this season; this is his third stop with Joe Kerrigan as the pitching coach; and he has been successful in the past . . . Second baseman Placido Polanco has missed four of the last five games with a groin strain. He took at-bats at the minor league camp yesterday but won't play until Thursday night . . . Extra man Jason Micha els, who is the favorite for the 25th roster spot, strained a right oblique muscle Sunda y in the batting cage. On deck Brandon Duckworth (elbow tendinitis) is set to throw off the mound tomorr ow. He could start again by the end of the week. Daily pearl - Bowa, on the fact that managers are pinch-hitting for lefty hitters when lefty Dan Plesac, a specialist at getting lefties, enters: "It's a joke. Every time you set it up so he faces a lefthanded hitter, they pinch-hit." Plesac, who yesterday went to the minor league comple x to face lefties, was less outraged. Marcus Hayes By MARCUS HAYES hayesmphillynews.com CLEARWATER, Fla. Bryan Eberly couldn't have been happier or luckier. He came on Jim Thome's two-homer day, and he went home with the more awesome one. His dad, Robert, allowed him to miss three dreary school days from Living Word Academy in Lancaster to watch the Phillies here as a present for his 17th birthday. The weather forecast called for rain the entire trip, but almost nothing fell during his days here. In fact, what came from the sky he coveted: Thome's big home-run ball. And not just any Thome home -run ball. This wasn't some pulled, wind-aided popup hit during batting practice, thrown by his manager. Thome nailed one of those before exhibition games began, and it landed about 550 feet away and skipped onto a highway behind the team's practice facility. Construction workers snagged that one and traded it to the people who run Lenny's Restaurant, a Phillies- dedica ted eatery, for a couple of lunches. This homer was more for real. This one came off a lefty pitcher, Andy Pettitte, a star starter for the Yankees. This one went to the opposite field, a second-inning flick of a thick wrist launched into legend. This one traveled 534 feet, soaring over the 40-foot-high scoreboard in left-centerfield. That's 144 feet beyond the wall. It hit the plastic bumper of a 2003 Ford Taurus rented from Hertz that was parked across the street from Jack Russell Stadium. It came to rest amid other cars parked on Denic e Anglero's lawn at 1166 Palmetto Street for $5 apiec e. Bryan, eating a sandwich with his dad at their car safely parked just over the leftfield wall, scrambled over to Anglero's house and asked her permission to search for the ball. She was on the phone; she shrugged, went back to her conversation and he snatched the ball from under a car. A few minutes later she put the phone on her shoulder, swept aside her long, dark braids and asked, "Who hit it?" "Jim Thome!" he exclaimed. Again, with the shrug. She returned to her phone conversation. Bryan displayed appropriate excitement. "This is, like, the best thing that could happen!" he cried. "I've wanted Jim Thome's autograph ever since I got here, and we're going back home tomorr ow!" Yes, yesterday's homer was wind-aided; yes, it came in an exhibition. But it came off Pettitte , who on his worst day in the minors was a better pitcher than 57-year-old manager Larry Bowa. Consider Thome locked in. He went l-for-3 on Sunday against the Twins, but the hit was of the infield variet y his team-lea ding fourth such hit while the outs were line shots deep in the alleys. His first homer at the Jack (in its last season) will be the stuff of lore, but was followed by a looking strikeout. He then ripped another, also to left, also a solo shot, in the fifth inning. "I was just trying to stay through the middle ," Thome explained, typically modest. "He's a bleeping animal," chirped in fellow slugger Pat Bur-rell. "That," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, employing youthful vernacular to describe the homer, "was stupid." As was Thome's typically generous offer when he learned it was Bryan Eberly's birthday vacation. He offered to sign the home -run ball, and made sure to do so after he exited the game . It was a very pleasant present. Yankees 10, Phillies 6 As if on cue, Bobby Abreu still carrying considerably more weight than his listed 200 pounds after a well-fed, hard-lifting offseason responded to the prog-nostication of his manager. The last 2 days Larry Bowa gushed: "I don't know why I think it, but I think Bobby Abreu is going to have a monster year. I don't know why. He's hitting balls right now I've never seen him hit. No doubt he's stronger. He's hitting the ball like he's a righthanded pull hitter." Abreu followed Jim Thome's 534-foot bash with a three -run, 450-footer of his own. His came off reliever Jason Anderson. On Anderson's next pitch, Thome launched a tracer that followed Abreu's. Those were the more dramatic of the Phils' homers on a dinger day, when seven homers left the park. It was a bad day for any pitcher, none more so than Brett Myers, who believed fatigue sapped his velocity and took snap off his curve ball. He left with one out in the fourth inning having given up six runs, all earned, on nine hits. Bowa said Myers was thinking too much. In an effort to re-energize, Myers, 22, will pitch only one bullpen session instead of two before his next start. Catcher Mike Lieberthal also returned and caught four innings after missing 15 games with a strained abdominal pelvic muscle that kept him from running. He doubled. Oops. "Before I got up I thought, 'Am I going to be upset if I hit a double?' " he said. He reported no ill effects in his two at-bats, and is eager to catch again today before taking tomorrow's road trip off. "It's a sense of security for myself," he said. "But I still have some worry, so I won't push myself until the season starts." The Phils fell to 6-12. PAGE 74 PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2003

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