Hellickson pitches 5 hitless innings, Phillies top Astros
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Jeremy Hellickson threw five hitless innings and Cesar Hernandez drove in three runs in the Philadelphia Phillies’ 5-4 win Sunday against the Astros.
Hellickson struck out six and walked three in his first Grapefruit League start since March 4.
Hernandez homered, doubled and singled. Pinch hitter Cedric Hunter also drove in a run, doubling off former Phillies reliever Ken Giles in the fifth.
Giles allowed two runs in one inning.
“The results you don’t want, but this was the best outing I’ve had so far,” Giles said. “My timing was great today, ball coming out of my hand really well today, so I was very, very pleased.”
Hellickson had missed time because of the flu.
“It’s been an odd schedule, but I got four innings in a minor league game (March 13),” Hellickson said. “But it felt like forever since I pitched up here.”
Hernandez hit a tying double in the seventh and scored the go-ahead run on a perfect suicide-squeeze bunt by Freddy Galvis.
“All I tried to do was see the ball and put good swings on them,” Hernandez said through a translator. ” ... I’m playing a lot more relaxed now. Now I understand I’m an everyday player.”
Colby Rasmus hit a three-run homer off Hector Neris in the sixth, part of a four-run inning for the Astros. It was Rasmus’ third home run of the spring.
Phillies: Hellickson is lined up to start opening day for the Phillies in Cincinnati on April 4. Manager Pete Mackanin said he’s not ready to name who the starter will be, but if it’s Hellickson, he certainly won’t complain. “The first dream is to make it, the other one is to be the opening day starter,” Hellickson said. “Either way it doesn’t matter, but it would be an honor.”
Astros: LHP Wandy Rodriguez held the Phillies to one run on two hits in four innings. He didn’t walk a hitter and struck out five in his second start of the spring. Rodriguez has also appeared in two games out of the bullpen as he tries to make the roster.
Phillies: OF Odubel Herrera is still slowed by his bruised middle finger on his left hand. He has been hitting off a tee and is expected to taking batting practice Tuesday. Herrera has not played since March 12.
Astros: C/OF Evan Gattis has been lightly jogging and hitting in minor league games as he works back from sports hernia surgery. Full running will be the final test he must pass to return to game action. ... RHP Luke Gregerson, who is competing to be the Astros’ closer, is expected to pitch in a Grapefruit League game this week, his first of the spring. Gregerson has been sidelined with a sore left oblique. ... RHP Lance McCullers (right shoulder soreness) is ready to begin throwing on flat ground for 5-7 days with the next step to throw off a mound. McCullers will start the season on the disabled list.
UP NEXT: The Phillies travel to Lakeland to play the Tigers on Monday. Right-hander Aaron Nola takes the mound for Philadelphia while right-hander Anibal Sanchez is scheduled to start for Detroit. The Astros and right-hander Scott Feldman head to Viera to face the Nationals and left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
SPRING CUTS: The Astros trimmed their spring roster before Sunday’s game. IF Nolan Fontana and OF Andrew Aplin were optioned to minor league camp, and 2B/OF Tony Kemp was reassigned to minor league camp. Following the loss, Houston also optioned RHP Asher Wojciechowski to Triple-A Fresno.
“We need to get him started on a more regular routine,” manager A.J. Hinch said of Wojciechowski. “He’s caught in the middle a little bit where he started in the minors.”