For Phillies, it's bullpen a la Manuel

Brad Lidge saved two games in Colorado, but will he remain the closer?
Brad Lidge saved two games in Colorado, but will he remain the closer?
Posted: October 14, 2009

LOS ANGELES - When Charlie Manuel said his bullpen was his palette for improvisational managing, he wasn't kidding.

He has been as unpredictable as possible - and, really, as successful.

Asked Sunday if he worried about offending the tender sensibilities of his bullpen members, Manuel snorted.

"I've seen them all year. I know what they've shown me," Manuel said.

And so . . . Manuel used his best righthanded starter, Joe Blanton, twice out of the pen in the National League Division Series.

Manuel used Game 3 starter J.A. Happ, his lefthanded rookie of the year candidate, in relief in Game 2.

In Game 2, Manuel used a rookie - Antonio Bastardo - against veteran slugger Jason Giambi. And Bastardo struck him out.

On Monday, in the Game 4 clincher, Manuel used lefty specialist Scott Eyre with a one-run lead to start the ninth - a move that turned around speedy switch-hitter Eric Young Jr.; limited the power potential of lefthanded Carlos Gonzalez; and kept Todd Helton off closer Brad Lidge.

That's right, closer Brad Lidge.

Manuel saw enough of Ryan Madson over the last 2 months to . . . make sure Madson wasn't his closer in the postseason. Not until Lidge had every chance to fail.

Lidge did not fail.

Madson did, grandly, in Game 4.

That won't matter in the NLCS against the Dodgers. Madson is what Manuel has.

He has good numbers against Manny Ramirez, James Loney, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier. That's all that seems to matter to Manuel these days.

This series could be a matchup mess.

For instance:

* Does Manuel let Lidge continue to close? Lidge's numbers this season against Ethier, Loney, Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp, and Mark Loretta: 7-for-12. Those are numbers typical of their career numbers against Lidge. Maybe Lidge becomes a situational late-innings guy; maybe he just faces Martin and Ramirez.

Or maybe he's the go-to guy, period.

* Does Manuel go away from Madson? Or does he ride him? He actually has had success against most of the Dodgers this season, though his numbers overall against them aren't stellar. Could we see a typical eighth-inning setup role, followed by Lidge?

* Does Manuel keep Pedro Martinez on the roster, and, if so, does he allow him to pitch out of the 'pen? His numbers against the Dodgers are all over the place, and he hasn't pitched in a game since Sept. 30. Can the Phillies trust him . . . to any degree?

* Does Manuel continue to snub Blanton? All Blanton did was save the club's bacon before Cliff Lee's arrival and ascension to the top of the rotation. Blanton has been their best pitcher.

He was superb on June 6 in LA despite a 3-2 loss, and he would make a natural Game 2 starter. Blanton was good out of the bullpen in the NLDS, but those days are probably behind him.

* Does Manuel trust Chan Ho Park? He missed the first round with a hamstring strain, but he could be back sometime this series. Park was incredible last season as a Dodgers reliever, especially at Dodger Stadium.

This season, Park was 2-2 with a 2.57 earned-run average since early May, when he was taken out of the Phillies' rotation and put into the bullpen. He also handled the Dodgers both as a starter and as a reliever. But he hasn't pitched since the hamstring popped Sept. 16. Can Manuel count on him? If Park lands on the roster, he'll get every chance.

* Will we see Bastardo again? Only early in games, it appears. Manuel called on the rookie lefty in the eighth inning of Game 2 with two outs and the bases loaded to get out Rockies lefty pinch-hitter Giambi.

Manuel only went with Bastardo because Scott Eyre, the only other lefty reliever, had already pitched, after Happ was knocked out of the game by a linedrive off his knee. Even though Bastardo struck out Giambi with a measure of dominance, Manuel has since said he would use Bastardo early, for one lefty batter. So, say, maybe against Ethier, who struggles against lefty pitchers; or, better yet, against Jim Thome, who will be a pinch-hitter. That would be dramatic.

* Will Eyre carry the freight? Manuel believes in veteran experience. Eyre pitched his way into Manuel's best graces in Game 3 and Game 4 of the division series - especially Game 4, pitching on a bum ankle, in the cold, at the age of 37. But does that affection overcome Ethier being 3-for-4 against Eyre?

Given recent evidence, no way.

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