Alfonseca a relief in setup role

Posted: April 12, 2007

NEW YORK - For now, it's a committee of four. It could grow to five.

. . . Unless Antonio Alfonseca makes the setup role his own.

Alfonseca's 1-2-3 eighth inning last night preserved a 5-2 lead for starter Adam Eaton and gave closer Tom Gordon the game in the ninth. It was the first time the Phillies, thanks to three bullpen blowups, exited a close game with a win. Alfonseca isn't getting too comfortable.

Asked afterward if he had a setup man, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel replied, "We had one tonight."

In no particular order, Phillies relievers Ryan Madson, Geoff Geary, Alfonseca and Matt Smith - the only lefthander - will be called upon to pitch in front of closer Gordon.

As soon as the Phillies believe he is ready, former No. 1 starter Jon Lieber will be added to the mix despite his atrocious debut Monday, when he entered in the eighth with the bases loaded and turned a one-run deficit into a six-run deficit.

"The other day, I didn't want to use him," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think Lieber can pitch in the back of the bullpen when he gets used to it. Maybe the seventh and the eighth. [But] That's a role we've got to work him into."

It's a role Madson worked into in spring training and one Geary worked into late last season.

After taking losses in the first two games Madson appears to have lost his edge. A bullpen standout in 2004 and 2005, Madson flopped as a starter last year and has yet to regain the form he had as a rookie and sophomore.

"I told him he'd get chances," Manuel said.

Geary got his chance Monday. With a one-run lead he was allowed to hit for himself in the top of the eighth after finishing the seventh, then imploded.

Now, it's anybody's job. It depends on how the Phils match up against the opposition's lineup.

"In some ways, I like matchups," Manuel said.

In every way, it was clear, he wishes he had a designated setup man. Now, he might.

Alfonseca was signed in January after elbow problems cost him most of 2006, a hopeful answer to the Phillies' questions in the spots ahead of Gordon. He was the sole bullpen addition.

Manuel was unimpressed with Alfonseca's velocity and command in spring training, so Madson got the first chance. Alfonseca agreed last night with Manuel that, in his last two outings, he has been sharper and throwing harder.

He agrees with Manuel that he needs a few more outings to claim any defined role.

"Charlie can use me whenever he wants," said Alfonseca, who will be 35 on Monday. "It doesn't bother me."

Good thing.

Freddy ready

Freddy Garcia threw 70 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday in Clearwater, where his final rehab start was rained out. He will come off the 15-day disabled list and be inserted into the rotation Sunday against Houston behind Cole Hamels and ahead of Adam Eaton. He will be limited to 85 or 90 pitches, said pitching coach Rich Dubee.

Garcia says he hasn't felt pain in his strained right biceps since spring training. In fact, he said, he feels better now than he did all spring.

That's good news for the Phillies, since Garcia hasn't thrown a pitch in a game over 91 mph since they traded for him in December. Despite the pitch-count limitation, Garcia, who has logged at least 200 innings in seven of his eight seasons, expects to be a horse.

"When I start pitching, I want to pitch eight innings every time," Garcia said.

Latest, greatest

Ryan Howard appeared with a slew of celebrities when he taped a commercial for the Super Bowl, but his solo appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" Tuesday gave him more goosebumps.

"Because you've got a live audience," Howard said.

And because it's all you:

"You grow up watching these shows, watching certain things, like David Letterman, and now you're doing it - it's kind of surreal."

Phillers

The entire Phillies team will wear No. 42 on Sunday, when MLB marks the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut. The number is retired across baseball but an exemption has been granted anyone who wants to wear the number Sunday . . . Rookie Michael Bourn, in leftfield as a seventh-inning defensive replacement, worked a two-out, two-on walk in the eighth inning against lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano, who had him 0-2 . . . Chase Utley was hit in the left hand by a Feliciano pitch in the eighth. X-rays were negative. *

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|