Cliff Lee is usually ready for anything but when Charlie Manuel asked the ace to pinch-hit in the third inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies in May, the most popular athlete in Philadelphia was taken aback.
"Charlie caught me off guard with that one," Lee said. "But if he gives me the chance (to hit), I'm up for it. It's a fun part of the game."
Most major league pitchers appear to be going through the motions at the plate but that's not so when it comes to the Phillies four aces, who take pride in not just taking the mound but stepping to the dish.
"It's important to get up there and try to help yourself," Roy Oswalt said.
According to Manuel, Oswalt is one of the best bunters on the team. "I learned how to bunt when I got sick of embarrassing myself with (the) Houston (Astros)," Oswalt said.
"You might not be able to teach yourself to hit but you can teach yourself how to bunt if you have good hand-eye coordination. Guys need to bunt in the big leagues. The thing is that the big guys who hit home runs probably don't know how to do it but someone has to do it. I try to do my best bunting and I like to swing away too."
Cole Hamels has perhaps the best stroke of the Phillies pitchers. It's no surprise that Hamels, who at one point was hitting .284, is batting over .200 this season.
Pete Mackanin, who handles the offensive side of the staff's pitchers, is impressed with Hamels. "He can hit," Mackanin said. "He takes pride in what he does. He's fun to work with."
Roy Halladay has perhaps come the longest way in the shortest period of time at the plate. When Halladay joined the Phillies in 2010, he looked as comfortable at the plate as a Cowboy fan in the upper deck at the Linc at an Eagles game.
However, Halladay had a few key hits, which drove in runs last season and he hit .300 during spring training.
"Roy is a very competitive person," Lee said. "He wants to be the best at everything. We have a friendly competition here with us (pitchers). It's a good thing since if we hit well, it helps the club. It's all about winning."
Hitting coach Greg Gross is impressed with the Phillies aces when they step into the batters box. "The neat thing about this group is that these guys are probably as good as they're going to be," Gross said.
"The reason for that is that they have put in a lot of work at hitting. That's what you need to do. You have to put your time in as a hitter to get better. You don't see a group like this that often. But they know how important it is to be productive at the plate. They know that it will help this team win. They're competitive and they're fun to watch, not just when they're on the mound. That's pretty cool."
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