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CLEVELAND -- Geoff Geary's five weeks of subpar results prompted a sacrifice to the baseball gods: His goatee.
The Phillies reliever eliminated his facial hair after his latest adventure, an inning on Monday in which he allowed three runs on two hits and two walks, turning a 6-1 deficit into a 10-1 blowout by the Indians. Geary's shoulder-length brown hair is next to go, courtesy of clubhouse barber Ryan Madson.
"I'm trying to change everything," Geary said. "Honesty, I'm just as frustrated as everybody in Philadelphia."
Unlike Samson, Geary doesn't need his locks to remain strong, only a short memory. He's aware of his 9.64 ERA in 15 appearances since May 11, in which hitters batted .355, a stark decline from his first 17 appearances (1.50 ERA, .197 batting average against). The problem has been the common mixture of mechanical issues and mental confidence.
"Mechanically, I'm off a little, and mentally, I'm trying to do more than I can," Geary said. "I'm forcing it."
Geary did some forcing on Monday. After getting an out, he uncharacteristically walked Jason Michaels and hit Ryan Garko. He struck out Franklin Gutierrez, and ran a 3-1 count to Kelly Shoppach, who doubled. Josh Barfield followed with a two-run single, leaving Geary further frustrated.
"I hit [Garko] and went, 'Oh, man. How could I throw a pitch down and away and then another pitch that was supposed to be away that hit him in the ribs?'" Geary said. "You get your hand out too quick, the ball flies one way. If you're too late, it stays flat. I'm walking everybody and hitting people. It's not that I don't know how to pitch. There's a little something I tweaked between May and now, and I'm trying to figure out how to get back."
To do this, Geary and pitching coach Rich Dubee have dusted off tapes from 2004-06, and detected that Geary's windup was more relaxed and smoother.
"We think he can pitch better, and I think he thinks he can pitch better," Dubee said. "He's gone through bad streaks before, so he'll bounce back. He was throwing strike one before. He's behind in the count too often now. His command hasn't been as good. Some of it's mechanical, some of
it's confidence. When you're struggling, you try to be more instead of just being relaxed."
The perfect infield?
In the context of Monday's rough loss, manager Charlie Manuel unearthed an unorthodox infield alignment that featured Jayson Werth's first career appearance at first base, Greg Dobbs' third career appearance at second base, Abraham Nunez at short and Wes Helms at third.
"Ideal," said Werth, who hasn't played first since 2001, in Double-A.
For the occasion, Werth used Helms' backup first baseman's glove, and dropped the first warmup toss. On the first play for real, Werth caught a laser from Helms on groundout. If he's to play first base again, Werth said Helms has agreed to let him use his "gamer."
"That's the plan now," Werth said.
"When he hit 37 [home runs in 2002] and knocked in 100-some runs, I think expectations got real big for him. People saw him hitting 40 to 50 [homers] with a .300 average. I still say he can hit 30 to 40 [homers] in a good year." -- Manuel, on Pat Burrell
The Phillies are hoping to have Tom Gordon and Brett Myers back by July 1, as both seem to be on similar paths toward recovery. "It if happens, it'll be great," Dubee said. "We'll take it one day at a time. Flash has been coming along fine. I think Flash is probably a step ahead of Brett just because he's thrown [off the mound] and with more intensity so far." ...Aaron Rowand didn't reach base for the second straight game on Tuesday, his first two-game drought of the season.
Righty Jon Lieber, who opposes Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia in Wednesday's 7:05 p.m. ET series finale, followed up his best outing of the season -- a June 6 shutout of the Royals -- with his third loss in four starts. He gave up six runs in five innings against the Tigers. Lieber allowed three hits during his shutout, but 33 combined hits during the three losses that sandwiched it. Against the Indians, he is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA in his career.