Phillies Notes: Phillies' bullpen all sorted out, perhaps

Closer Brad Lidge after putting out the lights against the Padres Friday. Late-inning relief is becoming a Phillies strong point.
Closer Brad Lidge after putting out the lights against the Padres Friday. Late-inning relief is becoming a Phillies strong point.
Posted: June 06, 2010

Few have held defined roles within the Phillies' bullpen this season. Even so, with the starting pitchers averaging 61/3 innings per start and middle relievers throwing in different situations, the later innings have been a strong point.

Now the back of the bullpen finally has Brad Lidge back as its closer.

"So you've got five guys to throw two innings," righthander Danys Baez said.

It's an advantage the Phillies had hoped for when reshaping the bullpen in the off-season. Few would have predicted the manner in which it has developed.

As the first weeks of the 2010 season played out and injuries persisted, the bullpen could have been an even bigger problem than it was perceived to be.

Without their top two relievers - Lidge and Ryan Madson - for much of the season, manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee decided roles on the fly. It worked.

Those five guys - Lidge, Baez, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin, and J.C. Romero - have combined for a 2.72 ERA.

All five have pitched in various roles, generally with the same success.

"The good thing about it is, the other bench, they know that," Baez said. "They know how effective our bullpen is. It puts pressure on them to do something early."

Thanks to the starters' going deep, the Phillies' bullpen has pitched the fewest innings in the majors - 1312/3 innings. And that's even counting when the bullpen had to throw 71/3 innings June 1 after Cole Hamels' start was shortened by a rain delay.

If Lidge's first save since returning from the disabled list - an impressive 1-2-3 inning Friday against San Diego - is any indication, the Phillies can shift all of their relievers back.

"What it does is it gives us depth. It takes us to a place where we can set our bullpen up," Manuel said of having Lidge back. "I think right now with where we're at, we can pretty much line up our seventh- and eighth-inning guys and our multiple-inning guys.

"We have a chance to organize our bullpen now. Before, we kind of went on mixing and matching, on feel."

Durbin said the fact that Baez, Contreras, and he are all former starters allows them to be more than just situational relievers. The depth will pay off, he said.

"It gives us leverage to match up in the sixth, whereas you might have had to wait until the seventh," Durbin said. "We don't have to throw guys two or three innings to cover space."

No rest for Howard

Ryan Howard has played every inning of the season at first base, but Manuel said before Saturday's game that his struggling slugger did not need a day off.

"He can handle it," Manuel said. "He's always been able to handle it. He wants to play every day. I'll ask him every now and then. He always tells me, 'I can't do nothing not playing.' Why would I go and ask him anyway? I want him to play too."

Entering Saturday, Howard was tied for ninth in the National League in at-bats while playing from the cleanup spot. He has averaged 161 games in each of the last two seasons.

Extra bases

The Phillies honored Roy Halladay for his perfect game prior before Saturday's game. Catcher Carlos Ruiz presented Halladay with the pitching rubber, which was dug up from Sun Life Stadium. Professional bass fisher Skeet Reese recorded a message shown on the scoreboard inviting Halladay, an avid fisher, on a fishing expedition paid for by the Phillies. Halladay's wife, Brandy, and two sons, Braden and Ryan, joined Halladay on the field. . . . Joe Blanton, who has a rotation-worst 5.68 ERA, makes his seventh start of the season Sunday afternoon.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/magelb

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