It was an agate type pickup with almost certainly no implications for how the Phillies' 2010 season will unfold: last week, the team signed onetime pitching prospect Brandon Duckworth to a minor-league contract. Duckworth came up in 2001 as a 25 year-old and was immediately thrown into a pennant race, making 11 starts down the stretch and putting up a 3.52 ERA and 121 ERA+. Unfortunately, he'd never come close to replicating that performance; in 2002 he racked up 167 strikeouts, but his ERA rose to 5.41, and he was dropped from the Phils' rotation during the following season. That winter he went to the Astros in the Billy Wagner trade, but his career continued to founder; over the next two seasons he made just 26 major league appearances, including eight starts, and moved on to Kansas City in 2006. With the Royals he again bounced between the majors and the minors, spending all of 2009 in triple-A (and not pitching particularly well there, either).
A Phillies recently scout saw Duckworth pitching in a Dominican Winter League game against Jason Standridge, a former top pick of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays, and thought well enough of both of them that the organization extended contracts. Neither Standridge, 31, nor Duckworth, 34, is likely to see much big-league service time with the defending National League champs next year. But in Duckworth's case at least, I'd love for some enterprising sportswriter type to spend an hour or so with him one day in Florida and let him go on at length about how he perceives the changes in the Phillies organization since 2003, when he last was with the club. It's an almost-perfect before-and-after comparison, and you have to figure Duckworth, a Cal State Fullerton guy whom I remember as crafty on the mound and thoughtful off, would have an interesting take on it.