Relievers reluctant to take day off
Manuel trying to keep Phillies' bullpen fresh for stretch run
CHIGAGO -- The Phillies' thrilling 13-inning win over the Mets on Tuesday night came at the potential cost of continued work for an already exhausted core of relievers.While the Phils will gladly take the one run allowed in 10 innings that night, the four allowed a day later in Wednesday's 6-3 series-evening loss to the Mets may have come as a direct result. On Wednesday, righty reliever Rudy Seanez surrendered a game-tying home run to Carlos Delgado in the eighth inning, at a spot in the game where lefty J.C. Romero would've come in. That doesn't guarantee a different result, but it's manager Charlie Manuel's automatic move. With righties Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson, the other two-thirds of the three-headed, eighth-inning monster, also unavailable, Manuel went to closer Brad Lidge earlier than he would've liked. Lidge surrendered two additional runs. Romero said he was available and would've taken the ball if asked, but he understood Manuel's and pitching coach Rich Dubee's decision after the lefty had thrown 66 pitches in his previous three appearances, his highest total on consecutive days in his career. "I'm just an employee," Romero said. "I didn't know I had a day off. It was one of those things that happened. I felt OK, but I'll never second-guess their decision. As manager and coaches, you have to protect your guys, and I'm never going to say, 'No.' The way I was used in September, they might be thinking about that." Manuel was thinking about that, and Tuesday's effort forced the Phils' hand, even in an important game against the Mets. But Manuel was thinking about the 29 other important games. Ditto for Madson, whose 68 1/3 innings this season are sixth-most in the National League, and Durbin, who entered Thursday second in the NL at 73 2/3. "We have a tremendous bullpen. The thing that bothers me is that we're asking Durbin and Madson to be consistent in the eighth inning for us at times," said Manuel, who acknowledges a loss without injured setup man Tom Gordon. "I don't know if that's fair, because you really have to learn to pitch in the bullpen. That's like closing the game in a way. Gordon had experience as a closer and a setup guy. I know the guys we have can do it." It's just that they need a day off, sometimes no matter what the situation may be. "You take the day [off] because you need it," said Madson, who missed the final two months last season with a right shoulder strain. "You know you're going to be needed later. I've been doing a lot of strengthening to keep the shoulder strong. We're going to be needed a lot more down the stretch."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.