Jurrjens struggles, Braves fall to Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Dontrelle Willis pumped his fist with the enthusiasm of a guy getting a meaningful out late in the season, and then blessed himself and pointed to the sky as he walked off the mound.

The D-Train is still in service.

Willis pitched a scoreless inning, Scott Podsednik hit a tiebreaking RBI single and a Philadelphia Phillies split squad beat the Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Thursday.

It was an encouraging outing for Willis after he got rocked and left his last appearance because of arm tightness and fatigue. Willis, a former 22-game winner, is trying to resurrect his career in a new role as a lefty specialist in the bullpen.

“I took some tips from some guys,” Willis said. “I definitely warmed up a lot better. I slowed myself down. I felt a lot better out there. Just learning the learning curve.”

Willis walked the first batter he faced then retired Jason Heyward on a flyball and retired Tyler Pastornicky on a double-play grounder.

“That was a big play,” Willis said. “That’s the kind of situation that I’ll get put in and I’m facing guys I might face in the big leagues. I’m taking this task seriously because it’s the first time I’ve done it.”

Willis allowed five runs and five hits in 1 2-3 innings in his first two spring appearances.

“Command is the biggest thing, if he commands his pitches,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s funky. He definitely has enough motion and stuff to be tough on lefties.”

Matt Diaz and Dan Uggla hit solo homers for the Braves. Jair Jurrjens had a rough outing, allowing four runs and nine hits in four innings.

Jurrjens went 12-3 in the first half last year and made his first All-Star team, but he didn’t pitch during the final month of last season because of a bone bruise in his right knee.

“They got some cheap hits,” he said. “I felt good. I threw more strikes. I was happy with my control. I wish they hit some balls to the fielders. Nothing you can do about those cheap hits.”

Joe Blanton went five innings for Philadelphia, allowing three runs and four hits.

Podsednik had one of six run-scoring singles for the Phillies. He’s competing for a roster spot and could earn playing time in left field.

Jim Thome, Jimmy Rollins, John Mayberry Jr., Placido Polanco and Brian Schneider also had RBI singles for the Phillies.

NOTES: Manuel said “there’s a good chance” Chase Utley will be in the lineup on opening day. Utley, the five-time All-Star 2B, hasn’t played this spring because of a knee injury that forced him to miss the first 47 games last year. … Phillies RHP Jose Contreras threw a scoreless inning in his second appearance in a minor league game. Contreras is coming off an injury-plagued season and could be a key part of the bullpen if healthy. … OFs Domonic Brown and Laynce Nix were scratched from Philadelphia’s split-squad lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays. Brown has a stiff neck and Nix is bothered by sore ribs. … Braves RHP Arodys Vizcaino will visit renowned specialist Dr. James Andrews to have his injured elbow checked out.