NEW YORK -- It has been a grueling journey for Phillies right-hander Scott Mathieson, but he is back.
The Phillies recalled Mathieson from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday to take Antonio Bastardo's place on the 25-man roster. The Phillies placed Bastardo on the 15-day disabled list with ulnar neuritis in his left elbow. It is Mathieson's first time in the big leagues since Sept. 2, 2006, when he injured his right elbow in a start against the Atlanta Braves.
Two Tommy John surgeries and one other elbow surgery later, Mathieson is in the Phillies bullpen.
It wasn't easy.
"Right after Spring Training usually, it was the toughest driving to the field," Mathieson said Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. "There were many days when I would pull over and stop and [want to] turn around. That was tough. I'd be stuck in traffic, pull over and say, 'What am I doing?' It's well worth it now."
Mathieson, 26, went 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) with the Phillies in 2006. He injured his elbow Sept. 2 and had his first Tommy John surgery Sept. 29. He made seven rehab appearances in August 2007, but felt more discomfort in the elbow and required ulnar nerve transposition surgery Sept. 24, 2007.
Mathieson had his second Tommy John surgery May 15, 2008.
The chances of returning to the big leagues following two Tommy John surgeries are roughly 20 percent, but Mathieson did it.
"It's an amazing feat," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Mathieson went 2-2 with a 2.43 ERA and 12 saves in 25 appearances with Lehigh Valley. His fastball has touched 99 mph, but has consistently sat at 96 mph. He said his slider and changeup have improved, which were two of the things the Phillies wanted Mathieson working on in the Minor Leagues.
"I think they're improving," Amaro said of Mathieson's secondary pitches. "He's still working on them. The velocity obviously is there."
Stolen base yields big reward for Phillies
NEW YORK -- The catalyst for Philadelphia's four-run outburst in the second inning of Wednesday's 6-3 win likely caught the Yankees by surprise -- a stolen base by 38-year-old outfielder Raul Ibanez with one out in the inning.
But Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes didn't think it was a risky move, not the way he and manager Charlie Manuel were clocking Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett and the lack of attention he was paying to Ibanez at first base.
"You take advantage of what the opposition presents to you," Lopes said. "He took the opportunity and stole the base, and it worked out to an RBI."
Lopes was surprised the play was so close at second base. Ibanez -- though not as swift as he once was, especially following offseason surgery to remove a sports hernia -- can run, and Burnett seemed entirely focused on retiring Greg Dobbs at the plate. Lopes credited Yankees catcher Jorge Posada with making a good throw to nearly catch Ibanez and wipe out the play.
If Posada got Ibanez there, Philadelphia's big inning likely wouldn't have happened -- Dobbs wouldn't have plated Ibanez with an RBI single a few pitches later; the Phillies wouldn't have added three more runs on a triple by Shane Victorino three batters afterward.
"Whatever he says, goes," Ibanez said, when asked if he was surprised to be given the green light to steal. "He handles the running stuff. It's pretty much if he says to do something, you do it."
Much has been made of Philadelphia's drop in stolen bases this season compared with years passed. The Phillies stole three bags on Wednesday, just the second time this season they've swiped that many -- at this time last year, they had done that six times. Their 32 stolen bases are tied for third-fewest in the National League.
But the Phillies have picked up the pace recently, and they have been successful 24 of the last 25 attempts.
"Jimmy [Rollins] has been out all season, and other guys just have not attempted to steal as much," Lopes said. "Lately guys just haven't been getting on base enough to attempt to steal. Those are all rationalizations, but yet that's exactly what's happening. Hopefully as the season progresses, we'll start picking up the pace."
Rollins has one more hurdle before return
NEW YORK -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Jimmy Rollins played well in two rehab games this week with Class A Clearwater.
Amaro said Rollins, who has been on the disabled list most of the season with a strained right calf, will play nine innings Friday night with Clearwater. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Rollins will rejoin the team in Philadelphia on Saturday. He could be activated as early as Sunday in the series finale against the Twins at Citizens Bank Park, or Tuesday in the series opener against the Cleveland Indians.
World Cup has Castro's attention
NEW YORK -- World Cup soccer has been the pregame television choice in the visitor's clubhouse this week, as well as on the giant scoreboard in center field at Yankee Stadium. And with his native Mexico playing in a second-round match against France on Thursday, Phillies shortstop Juan Castro was glued to the game.
Castro, who hails from Los Mochis, Mexico, said he grew up playing soccer but wasn't good enough to make it further than high school. But he still follows the game as much as he can.
Castro said he met Mexico's captain and centre back Rafael Marquez at a Dodgers game last year -- an exciting moment, even for a 14-year Major League veteran.
When Mexico scored its first goal in a 2-0 win on Thursday, Castro jumped from his seat and danced across the visitors' clubhouse. For their second goal, he teased teammate Ben Francisco -- who was rooting for France -- by playing a vuvuzuela sound on an iPhone.
Phils channeling 'Major League' in clubhouse
NEW YORK -- Chase Utley tried to summon the baseball gods Wednesday when he arranged bats, fruits, batting gloves, vitamins, a can of Red Bull and a tin of chewing tobacco in a crop circle-like pattern next to his locker.
Maybe it played a role in the Phillies' 6-3 victory over the Yankees.
So why stop there? In a nod to the movie "Major League," a Darth Maul bobble head, a miniature bottle of rum and a shot glass full of rum sat in the locker next to Utley's before Thursday's series finale against the Yankees. Darth Maul, a character from the Star Wars movies, replaced Jobu, the idol that fictional Cleveland Indians slugger Pedro Cerrano worshipped to help him hit curveballs. The only thing missing was a cigar.
"I think we ought to bring those four candles out here tonight and light 'em up," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I might get a table and set it up here, fire 'em up during the game. Do I believe in it? I didn't say that, did I? Whatever it takes."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel hit Chase Utley and Placido Polanco third with Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte on the mound. He hit them in the same spots Tuesday against left-hander CC Sabathia. Manuel wanted to split up the left-handed hitting Utley and Ryan Howard. ... Manuel complimented Greg Dobbs for getting a big hit in Wednesday's 6-3 victory over the Yankees. Dobbs is hitting .154 in 65 at-bats this season. "I know Dobbs can hit," Manuel said. "I've seen Dobbs hit good. Over the course of the last four years, he's gotten some real big hits for us. He's gotten some big time hits. I know he can hit. That's his plus. He can hit. He's sitting there with 60 at-bats and he's hitting .150 or whatever. It doesn't mean he can't hit. Hitting is hard. It's real, real, real, real hard."
Todd Zolecki is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.