- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

JUPITER, FLA. (AP) - Clay Condrey’s work goes largely unnoticed.

The 33-year-old Philadelphia Phillies pitcher gets the ball after Cole Hamels and before Brad Lidge. He’s a middle reliever that lacks the unhittable pitch or the highlight-reel flash of his more popular starter and closer teammates.

But Condrey’s role was important for the 2008 world champions last summer.

In his third season with the Phillies last summer, Condrey was 3-4 with a 3.26 ERA. After April, he had a 2.83 ERA for the final five months of the season.

“He throws better than what people give him credit for,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He was a staff saver for us.”

Condrey didn’t establish himself as a regular in the Phillies’ bullpen until the second half of the 2007 season. When called upon, he was able to handle mop-up duty. If another pitcher was overworked, Condrey could save his teammate a day of work.

Condrey was the quiet part of a bullpen that led the National League with a 3.22 ERA in 2008.

“Warm up? OK.’ Sit down? ‘OK.’ You’re in the game. ‘OK,’” reliever Scott Eyre said of his teammate. “Everything is OK; he doesn’t complain about much.”

“He does whatever is asked of him. He can throw two or three innings one day and be able to throw the next day.”

Condrey, who has a 1.69 ERA this spring following an inning of work Thursday against the Florida Marlins, is expected to make the opening day roster. But as a former 94th-round pick of the New York Yankees in the 1996 amateur draft, Condrey realizes nothing comes easy.

“I definitely don’t feel comfortable like I’ve got a spot,” Condrey said. “At no time when you step between the white lines do you want to feel comfortable. If you did, you’re waiting for bad things to happen.”

Condrey’s production should help.

Despite finishing 2007 with a 5.04 ERA, Condrey had a 3.69 ERA in the second half of that season. Since the All-Star break in 2007, Condrey is 5-4 with a 3.40 ERA.

When Manuel thinks about last season, the Phillies manager often brings up the bullpen fairly quickly in the conversation. In that bullpen, Condrey rose to the challenge in the latter stages of the season _ he had a 1.04 ERA in nine games in September as the team chased down their second straight NL East title.

“I think in the last couple years, Condrey has done a heck of a job for us; he got some big outs and some times it goes unnoticed,” Manuel said. “But he pitches in games that really meant something during the season last year, down toward the end, and he did a tremendous job.”

Notes:@ Second baseman Chase Utley (hip) played in his third game in four days in the Phillies’ 2-2 tie against the St. Louis Cardinals. He finished 2-for-3 with a run. … Pitcher Chan Ho Park (hamstring) was originally scheduled to start against the Minnesota Twins, but Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said after Friday’s game that Park’s status is “up in the air” for the game. … Pitcher Cole Hamels (elbow tightness) took part in a long-toss session for the second straight day. He is expected to throw off the mound in a bullpen side session Saturday.

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