05/19/09 8:32 PM ET
Happ replaces Park in Phils' rotation
Lefty to face Yankees on Saturday; veteran to join 'pen
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
They never promised it would last forever.
Park learned Tuesday his opportunity lasted just seven starts, when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee called him into the Manuel's office at Great American Ball Park to tell him he had lost his job in the rotation. Park will join the bullpen, where he will be available beginning Wednesday night against the Reds.
Left-hander J.A. Happ, who lost a Spring Training competition for the final spot in the rotation to Park, will take Park's place and start Saturday against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
"I'm disappointed," Park said. "I lost the job as a starter, which is what I wanted. I don't make the decision, but I lost the job."
He lost the job because he went 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA in seven starts.
He lost the job because Phillies starters, who entered Tuesday with a Major League-worst 6.35 ERA, have not pitched deep into games, which is putting a strain on the bullpen. The Phils are concerned that the bullpen's heavy workload in April and May could translate into burnout come August and September. And because left-hander Jamie Moyer and right-hander Joe Blanton are not candidates to be replaced, Happ for Park was the only viable option.
"We've been weighing it all along," Dubee said. "When to do it, if we had to do it. Why we need to do it. Why we didn't need to do it. I think Sunday's game just kind of put it over the top that this was the time we needed to do it."
Park lasted just 1 1/3 innings Sunday against the Nationals, sealing his fate.
"I have to figure out how to prepare to be good with the new job in the bullpen," Park said. "I have good memories of the bullpen last year [with the Dodgers]. I know it's not easy. That's why I don't like being in the bullpen. But the team expects more from me out of the bullpen. I have to do my best."
Manuel said he considered the effect the move to the bullpen could have on Park, but he couldn't worry about it.
"I'll pull for him and my team," Manuel said. "I shouldn't say I don't care what this guy wants. Maybe that isn't the right way [to say it]. I want him to be good. I want him to pitch for our team. But, hey, look, I don't have time ... if you want something, I can't satisfy your needs. ... When you get the ball, you satisfy yourself. You're the one that does it. I think about that stuff, but at the same time I also think about my team first."
The Phillies believe Park will help the team more in the bullpen.
"I want to put the best pitching on the field, whether it's out of our bullpen or in the rotation," Manuel said. "I probably will never be satisfied until we get perfect, and I don't see us getting perfect. There are things we need to try and there are things we need to do.
"These are things I told him, 'Where he's at in his career and the stuff that he has -- fastball, slider, changeup -- I think his stuff can play up bigger for two or three innings than it plays up over five or six or seven innings.' I think the shorter he stays on the field, it plays up. His talent is much better and the fact that he can hold his focus for one to three innings than five to seven."
Happ, who went 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA in 12 relief appearances, had little to say about Tuesday's events out of respect for Park, but he said he will try to take advantage of the opportunity. Interestingly, Happ found himself in the same spot Park finds himself in now: in the bullpen after desperately wanting to pitch in the rotation.
Happ rose to the challenge.
"For me, in reality, that's kind of the only choice I have," Happ said. "Otherwise, maybe I would never get back up or bad things can happen. I try to stay positive. Hopefully I can go out there Saturday and give us some quality innings."
"I think this is a good chance for him," Manuel said of Happ.
Park got a chance and didn't deliver. The Phillies are hoping Happ can.
The rotation and the bullpen need it.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.