Valaika’s grand slam gives Reds 8-4 win over Phils

Published 2:29 am Tuesday, March 10, 2009

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Cole Hamels is right where he wants to be as he prepares to make his first opening-day start.

Hamels pitched 2 2-3 innings in his Grapefruit League debut Monday, allowing two runs and two hits in the Philadelphia Phillies’ 8-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Hamels struck out three and walked none in his second exhibition start. He threw two scoreless innings in a 9-2 win over Canada on Wednesday.

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‘‘Cole did his work — his command is getting better,’’ Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ‘‘He’s getting there.’’

Hamels, who threw 42 pitches, surrendered a two-run homer to Ryan Hanigan in the third inning. The World Series MVP said his arm should be closer to normal for his last two spring starts.

‘‘That’s when you should mentally and physically be ready and your arm strength should be there,’’ he said. ‘‘But in my case, I don’t think my arm strength comes until we get under the lights.’’

The Phillies held Hamels back earlier this spring because he threw a career-high 262 1-3 innings in the regular season and playoffs combined last season, more than any other pitcher in baseball.

Chris Valaika hit a tiebreaking grand slam in the seventh inning and Yonder Alonso and Daryle Ward also went deep for Cincinnati. Valaika, one of the Reds’ top prospects, is batting .313 this spring.

‘‘Valaika is starting to swing the bat well,’’ manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘He’s getting the bat through the zone.’’

Justin Lehr, who served up the grand slam, was one of seven Phillies reassigned to minor league camp Monday.

Ryan Howard hit his fourth homer of the spring and Geoff Jenkins also went deep for the Phillies. Howard, who led the majors with 48 homers last season, is hitting .286 with eight RBIs in eight Grapefruit League games.

Bronson Arroyo pitched 3 1-3 innings for the Reds, yielding two runs and three hits.

Notes: Philadelphia RHPs Brad Lidge (forearm tightness) and Chad Durbin (right hamstring) are scheduled to throw in a simulated game Wednesday. Neither has appeared in a Grapefruit League game this spring. … Phillies C Chris Coste (right hamstring) made his first appearance in a game since Feb. 25 when he took over for Lou Marson in the seventh inning. Coste finished 0-for-1. … Reds 3B Edwin Encarnacion (left wrist) missed his second straight game. He is day to day. … Cincinnati pitcher Johnny Cueto ran on Monday and is expected to be fine after twisting his ankle Sunday while covering first base in the Dominican Republic’s 9-0 win over Panama in the World Baseball Classic. ‘‘That’s nothing — as long as it’s not his arm, he’ll be fine,’’ Baker said. … A strong wind sent a picnic-table umbrella skyward before the first pitch.