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Uncertainty surrounds new Phils righty Gonzalez

$48 million man could open in Minors after first being tabbed for top of rotation

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If there is a Man of Mystery in Phillies camp -- a Mr. X, an unknown -- it is Miguel Gonzalez.

The right-hander defected from Cuba last year before he agreed to a $48 million deal with the Phillies in July. But something happened during Gonzalez's physical exam, and the parties ultimately agreed to a three-year, $12 million contract. He seemed to be destined for a top spot in the Phils' rotation, but they have lowered expectations for him because they said nobody really knows what kind of pitcher he might be.

Factor in the imminent arrival of A.J. Burnett, and Gonzalez could open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"I've got more to prove to myself than anyone else," Gonzalez said via a translator of his status. "Once I prove it to myself, everyone else will be able to see it clearly."

Gonzalez said he started throwing bullpen sessions Jan. 6, and he feels 100 percent healthy.

"There is more speed, more movement," he said. "I can tell I've progressed."

Cole Hamels is expected to open the season on the disabled list, but the lefty could be back before the end of April. Once Hamels is healthy, he, Cliff Lee, Burnett and Kyle Kendrick will take the top four spots in the rotation. The Phillies signed Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, $4.5 million contract in December. He is the heavy favorite for the No. 5 spot, because Gonzalez, Jonathan Pettibone and others in camp have Minor League options.

"Those are decisions that are out of my control," said Gonzalez when asked if he sees himself in the rotation come Opening Day. "I'm going to do my best to do that, but that [decision] is out of my hands."

The righty said he would pitch in the bullpen, if needed, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Gonzalez is best suited to pitching regularly in a rotation.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for
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