Despite critisim of his one-inning approach to relief pitching, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is getting the most from a mediocre bullpen.
Part of what a manager does is recognize when his team doesn’t have it. Last night against the Nationals, the Phillies didn’t have it.
It was the eighth game of a cross-country road trip, the first in a new city. They have played 17-straight games, and will play 20 before a day off on Monday.
On top of that, today’s story in the Inquirer said their flight to Washington was delayed two hours and the players didn’t get to bed until 4:30 a.m. If they weren’t already asleep, one can’t blame them for dragging ass once the game started. Eude Brito walked the first batter he faced, a sign of things to come. He left in the fifth inning trailing 4-2.
At this point, Manuel correctly looked ahead to the next three games of this weekend series, including tonight’s tough game with Brett Myers and Tony Armas Jr.
Manuel mopped up yesterday's mess with the bottom tier of the bullpen, even though the score was still 4-2. The offense had already wasted opportunities, and as it turned out, wouldn't score the rest of the night.
Because of this correct judgement call, the Phillies have Rheal Cormier, Geoff Geary, Arthur Rhodes and Flash Gordon all rested and ready to go. Cormier may not have been available to pitch yesterday; he pitched the previous two nights.
The Phillies bullpen, considered by most experts to be the weak link of the team, has been the strongest area compared to other teams around the league. They have the second best ERA in the National League. Tom Gordon has 15 saves and is making his case for an all-star bid. Geoff Geary is having a career year. Rheal Cormier a comeback year.
Brito pitched a little better last night, but he doesn't get the Phillies close enough to win. The best the Phillies could have hoped for was to catch lightning in a bottle. Brito isn't a prospect.
The simple, temporary answer is to skip Brito's next turn in the rotation and go with a four-man rotation until Lieber gets back, which could come as early as Saturday.
The Phillies are fortunate the way the game unfolded. This allowed everyone, including Pat Gillick, to see that his boy, Franklin, stinks.
Franklin has been day-to-day with a strained shoulder, but it doesn't change things. Franklin’s pitches are slow and right down broadway. If he isn’t hitting his spots, he’s useless. At first, it appeared the bullpen experiment would work. Perhaps his pitch selection would keep hitters off-balance. But in relief, you can’t surrender home runs at this pace.
There’s talk that Franklin could be available for a spot start now that Brito has bombed. That’s crazy. The Phillies should be leaning more toward releasing him or trading him than giving him more chances to hurt them.
Until Gillick admits his mistake, it's almost like having the boss's son on the team and trying to fit him in somewhere. Hard to believe there was a press conference for the "innings eater."
Franklin is one of several struggling role players signed by Gillick, but not every Gillick move has been bad. He recognized Vicente Padilla, Tomas Perez, Jason Michaels, Ricardo Rodriguez, etc. wouldn’t help them more than what they already have.
Neither does Franklin. His spot on the club should belong to the younger Brian Sanches, pitching his third outstanding season of middle relief at a high minor league level.