5/12/2013 10:04 P.M. ET
D-backs' extreme shift frustrating for Howard
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- The shift the D-backs are using against Ryan Howard is one of the more extreme the lefty-swinging power hitter has faced, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said this weekend.
With runners on base, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has shifted his infield around to the right side, but with no one on, Gibson has placed his second baseman in short right field.
Howard is 0-for-13 with eight whiffs in the first three meetings of a four-game set at Chase Field that ends Sunday. He was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in the Phillies' 3-1 win Saturday.
Even when he hits the ball hard, he's had little luck. In the eighth inning Saturday, he slashed a liner to right that Gerardo Parra one-handed at the fence. And the deep shift worked to perfection in the eighth inning of Thursday night's 2-1 loss when second baseman Cliff Pennington threw him out with a long toss from short right on what normally would've been a single.
Howard is clearly frustrated by it. When asked if the Arizona shift is any more dramatic than any he normally faces, Howard said: "I'm not talking about shifts. There's no need to talk about shifts. A shift is a shift is a shift. I got no comment on it."
Howard was back in the lineup on Sunday, although he's struggling during the first six games of this seven-game trip to San Francisco and Phoenix. He's hitting .136 (3-for-22) with a homer and two RBIs.
Manuel said the only way to beat the shift is to try and "inside-out the ball by hitting it the other way."
"He has good power to left-center and can hit the ball out that way," Manuel said.
Actually, it seems like Gibson is baiting Howard to do just that or bunt the ball down to the vacated position at third. Gibson said he'd gladly trade a bunt single for a potential Howard homer.
"If you're Howard and you're down by a run, go ahead and bunt," Gibson said. "But he isn't getting paid to bunt the ball. He's getting paid to hit the ball out of the park. If he centers it, it will go out of the park. You make your choices. If he wants to bunt, go ahead and bunt. Not just any bunt is going to get you a hit. It's not that easy."
Rollins honored to use pink bat on Mother's Day
PHOENIX -- Manager Charlie Manuel shuffled the struggling Phillies lineup on Mother's Day, moving center fielder Ben Revere up from the eight-hole to the leadoff spot and sliding shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the usual No. 1 hitter, down a notch.
Revere and Rollins both swung the signature pink bats used throughout Major League Baseball on Sunday in honor of their mothers and breast cancer victims everywhere.
"It's Mother's Day and it's something special to use the bat and stuff," Revere said. "This is the first time I'd done it. I always used the wrist bands and everything just so people would know that you care for those breast cancer survivors."
The lineup move hardly made a difference as the pair went 1-for-8, but the Phillies came from behind and won, 4-2, in 10 innings and Ryan Howard had the game-winning, two-run single. Howard represented for the tribute by wearing pink shoes, arm bands and elbow sleeves for the first time.
Rollins said using the pink bat for him has become an annual event.
"Everybody has a mother," the veteran shortstop said. "So every year it's important for me to do it. It's a disease that affects so many women. If not treated early enough, just like any other cancer, there's a good chance it will take their lives."
This year, Rollins said he has a personal stake in it. His cousin, Trenise Robinson, was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago and underwent a radical mastectomy, he said.
"She's doing well," Rollins said. "My cousin went for a checkup and she found out she had breast cancer. They had to remove it. Her granddaughter is a 1-year-old. She wears her wig. My cousin's going through chemo so she has no hair. It's a long road, but it's one that's survivable."
About the lineup change, Manuel said he was just trying to shake things up a little bit and generate more offense. On Saturday night, with Revere in the eighth spot and Rollins leading off, the pair combined for their club's first two runs in a 3-1 win as Rollins drove home Revere with a sacrifice fly and a single.
Rollins said he had to laugh when Manuel called him in a few hours before Sunday's game to tell him about the pending move.
"It was funny," Rollins said. "He said, 'If you get mad at me, I'd rather have you do it in here than out there.'"
Did Rollins care?
"No, not at all," he said. "That's why I laughed when he dropped that on me. I go, 'This dude is crazy!'"
Papelbon's availability up in the air after five-out save
PHOENIX -- After a tough 29-pitch, five-out save on Saturday night for the Phillies in their 3-1 win over the D-backs at Chase Field, Jonathan Papelbon said his availability Sunday for the finale of the four-game series was "a game-time decision."
"I'm not sure yet," Papelbon said a few hours before the game. "It'll be a game-time decision. Right now, I'm feeling all right. We'll see."
Cliff Lee took the Phillies through the opening seven innings and departed for a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth with his club leading, 3-0. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he didn't have Mike Adams available and went to left-hander Antonio Bastardo.
But A.J. Pollock led off with a walk, and when he went to third on Paul Goldschmidt's one-out single, Manuel didn't hesitate and went to Papelbon to get the last five outs.
"I hate to do that," Manuel said on Sunday. "I think that's the first time I've ever done that. Maybe I did it back in the day with Billy Wagner, but these guys are not prepared emotionally these days to pitch like that."
Still, Manuel decided to lock down Saturday's game and worry about the next one on Sunday.
"That was my thinking," he said.
It worked, but not without some serious drama. Cody Ross knocked in Pollock with a sacrifice fly and Miguel Montero struck out looking to end the inning. The ninth was just as tough. After Martin Prado lined out to first baseman Ryan Howard, Gerardo Parra singled and stopped at third when lefty-swinging pinch-hitter Eric Chavez slashed a double into the left-field corner.
With the tying run on second, it was gut-check time for Papelbon.
"I just kind of needed to regain my focus at that point from the activity of the game," said Papelbon, who struck out pinch-hitter Eric Hinske and Pollock to the end the game, the latter swinging on a full-count pitch. "Quickly turn the page, so to speak."
Manuel said Sunday he planned to discuss the availability issue with Papelbon. The right-hander has worked only three times since his previous save on May 3.
"He'll be all right," Manuel said.
In his stead, Adams could get the call to close. For his part, Adams said he was just fine on Sunday.
"There's nothing wrong," Adams said. "I had worked four days in a row. [Saturday] was just a day off."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.