Originally created 03/31/04

Pirates edge out Phillies



BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jose Castillo gave the Pittsburgh Pirates another reason to make him their starting second baseman.

Castillo, set to make the jump from Double-A to the major league lineup, hit a pinch-hit homer off David Coggin in the ninth inning and the Pirates rallied to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-5 Tuesday.

Castillo's second homer raised his spring average to .298 and was his fourth hit in five at-bats. Manager Lloyd McClendon cautioned that Castillo and Bobby Hill remain in competition for the job as spring training winds down, but all signs point to Castillo being the starter on opening day.

"He's a very quick, very strong kid but, as big as he is (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), he moves very gracefully," McClendon said. "He's also got a quick bat."

While Castillo's homer might have helped his chances, it may have hurt Coggin as he and Ryan Madson compete for the last job in the Phillies' bullpen. Madson pitched two scoreless innings before Coggin gave up Castillo's homer, the only hit off him in 1 1-3 innings.

The first player off the bench to congratulate Castillo was Hill, who had two hits and is batting .340 yet seems destined to start the season as a utility infielder.

"What else can I do?" Hill said. "I'm pleased with my spring. If I'd had a terrible spring ... if I'd been outplayed, it would be different, but I don't feel like I've been outplayed."

Raul Mondesi helped the Pirates come back from a 3-0 deficit with his second long homer in three days, a three-run shot far over the scoreboard in left-center during a four-run third inning.

Philadelphia's Mike Lieberthal hit a three-run homer in the first off Oliver Perez.

Phillies starter Eric Milton gave up eight hits and five earned runs in five innings, but manager Larry Bowa said he pitched better than his numbers indicated.

Perez, coming off three consecutive rough starts, settled down after the first to pitch three scoreless innings. Perez, who has been working with pitching coach Spin Williams to smooth out his delivery, struck out three and walked three and apparently did not jeopardize his spot in the rotation.

"Except for one walk, I thought he threw extremely well," McClendon said. "He did the things we wanted him to do and he looked a lot more comfortable. As far as I'm concerned, nothing's changed and he's in the rotation."

Notes: The Phillies' Pat Burrell had two hits, including a two-run double in the fifth off Brian Meadows. He has nine RBIs in seven games. ... Pirates rookie left-hander Mike Johnston, still in the running for a bullpen spot, scrambled to pitch a scoreless eighth despite hitting a batter and committing a balk. ... Milton has given up 11 earned runs and 14 hits in 8 1-3 innings over his last two starts.