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Phillies' Howard continues hot spring

CLEARWATER — This year already is going better for Phillies 1B Ryan Howard than 2012 did.

Howard hit his first homer of the spring, an opposite-field drive to left off All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel that helped the Phillies beat the Braves 10-5 Thursday.

Howard also had an RBI double in the first.

He didn't play until July last year while recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon. Howard is 8-for-15 (.533) with three doubles and a homer so far this spring.

"He was totally relaxed and stayed on the ball, went with it," manager Charlie Manuel said of the homer.

In his second start, LHP Cole Hamels allowed one unearned run and four hits in three innings. He struck out four of his first seven batters and finished with five strikeouts and no walks.

"It was good," Hamels said. "I'm just building up, starting the process of trying to get the pitch count up."

Yanks: Phelps sharp

TAMPA — RHP David Phelps could end up back in the Yankees' rotation.

Phelps allowed two hits over three scoreless innings as a Yankees split squad lost 1-0 to the Blue Jays. Phelps struck out one and walked one, and he has not given up a run in five innings over two starts.

He could earn a starting spot if Phil Hughes remains sidelined by a bulging disc.

Phelps was 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA last year, with 11 starts and 22 relief appearances.

"I'm still preparing the same way whether I'm in the bullpen or if I'm to going to be a starter," Phelps said. "Just go out and try to be ready to pitch whatever role they need me."

Offer to Cano: GM Brian Cashman said he made a "significant" offer to 2B Robinson Cano in hopes of keeping the All-Star from hitting the free agent market in the fall.

Short hops: Closer Mariano Rivera and ace CC Sabathia both threw their first simulated games and reported no problems. … The other Yankees squad lost 7-6 to the host Astros.

Jays: Morrow better

TAMPA — RHP Brandon Morrow gave up two hits in two shutout innings as the Jays beat a Yankees split squad 1-0 on Andy LaRoche's homer.

"I felt in rhythm, and I was a lot more aggressive to my spot with the ball, which obviously the results were better," said Morrow, who allowed two earned runs and three hits in one inning Feb. 23.

RHP Sergio Santos gave up one hit over a scoreless inning. He could serve as closer if Casey Janssen (shoulder soreness) is not ready.

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Blue Jays

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin

Tickets: (727) 733-0429, bluejays.com

Today: vs. Rays, 1:05

Phillies

Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater Tickets: (727) 467-4457,

phillies.com

Today: at Yankees, 1:05. TV: MLB taped, 4

Yankees

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Tickets: (813) 879-2244, yankees.com

Today: vs. Phillies, 1:05.

TV: MLB taped, 4

Phillies' Howard continues hot spring 02/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 11:57pm]

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