The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 14, 2013

Eighth-inning homer beats Pirates

CLEARWATER, Fla. — If one of the Philadelphia Phillies’ starters goes down, Aaron Cook and Rodrigo Lopez are ready to fill in.

Cook and Lopez combined for five scoreless innings, Pete Orr hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning and the Phillies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Thursday.

“I’ll take the ball whenever they give it to me,” Cook said after allowing one hit in three innings. “I would love to start. At this point in the big leagues, I’ll take the ball whenever.”

Cook, who has made one relief appearance since 2003, could make the roster as a long man in the bullpen.

He’ll likely start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley as insurance.

Lopez is another veteran starter the Phillies could turn to if they have a need for a sixth or seventh guy.

“I think we are better armed starting-pitching wise and depth wise than last year,” General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “That was a shortage last year. If we have breakdowns, we have guys to come in and keep us going.”

Cook, a former All-Star in 2008 with Colorado, was 4-11 with a 5.65 ERA in 18 starts for Boston last year.

The righty was 3-10 with a 6.03 ERA in 2011. He’s 13-29 with a 5.54 ERA over the past three years.

“The last three years were a roller coaster for me,” Cook said. “I had a lot of bizarre injuries. I still have passion for the game and I want to pitch.”

Known for his sinker, Cook got five outs on grounders.

“Cook showed that great sinker, the ability to change speeds and to keep guys off-balance,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said.

Lopez worked around three hits in two innings, lower his spring ERA to 2.45.

“He doesn’t give in and he knows how to pitch,” Lopez said.

Orr, a veteran utilityman, connected off former Phillies left-hander Mike Zagurski, hitting a long drive to right.

Pirates starter Kyle McPherson threw five scoreless innings, allowing four hits. 

McPherson, who is competing for the fifth spot in Pittsburgh’s rotation, helped his chances after two rough outings.

“I’m going to continue to work and focus on ball down,” McPherson said. “I had tremendous success with that today.”

Phillies center fielder Ender Inciarte, a Rule 5 pickup from Arizona, made a perfect one-hop throw to the plate to retire Brad Hawpe, who was trying to score on Clint Barmes’ single in the second.

Notes: The Phillies announced that Cole Hamels will be their opening day starter. It will be his first opening day start. ... Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick allowed two unearned runs in five innings in a minor-league game. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out three. ... Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon struck out two in a perfect sixth. ... Philadelphia optioned infielder Cesar Hernandez to minor league camp and re-assigned right-hander Justin Friend to minor league camp. ... Zagurski had struck out eight of the last nine batters he faced before Orr took him deep. ... LHP Jonathan Sanchez will start for the Pirates at Houston today. ... LHP John Lannan starts for the Phillies at Tampa Bay today.

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