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Robot to throw first pitch for Phillies-Brewers game Wednesday

April 19, 2011 |  2:30 pm


With a starting rotation that features Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, the Philadelphia Phillies seem like the last Major League Baseball team that would need a mechanically engineered pitcher on the mound.

But they possibly could be the first team to actually have one.

PhillieBot -- a one-armed, three-wheeled robot designed by engineers at the University of Pennsylvania -- will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park, when the Phillies face the Milwaukee Brewers on what is apparently Science Day.

Penn engineers Jordan Brindza and Jamie Gewirtz put the robot together in less than two months, starting with a Segway then adding a robotic arm, a third will, a pneumatic cylinder (to power the pitch) and a computer brain (to change velocity and trajectory).

The robot's arm rears back at the touch of a button, then moves toward home plate before a flick of its wrist helps shoot the ball forward.

PhillieBot sounds pretty cool but doesn't appear to pose much of a threat to join the Phillies' star-studded pitching rotation. After all, no one needs to press a button to start Hamels' throwing motion. And chances are Halladay and Lee won't be too concerned over the robot's ability to throw a ball from 30 to 40 miles an hour (speeds which are said to be by design).

"I know some teams are a little pitching-challenged,” Phillies groundskeeper Mike Boekholder told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But we certainly don't have that problem."


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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Jamie Gewirtz, left, research specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, waits for PhillieBot to throw him a ball at Citizens Bank Park Monday. Credit: Ron Tarver / Associated Press