Phillies lacking reliable lefty in bullpen

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel (second from right) confers with players Ryan Howard and Chase Utley after removing pitcher Antonio Bastardo in the sixth inning against the Mets. Bastardo, who had relieved David Herndon, gave up a single to the Mets' Ike Davis.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel (second from right) confers with players Ryan Howard and Chase Utley after removing pitcher Antonio Bastardo in the sixth inning against the Mets. Bastardo, who had relieved David Herndon, gave up a single to the Mets' Ike Davis.
Posted: September 12, 2010

NEW YORK - When he called it a career, ex-Phillie Scott Eyre said he planned to spend his first summer retired from baseball tooling around the country with his family in an RV.

Right about now, the Phillies probably wish their former lefthanded reliever had a stop at Citizens Bank Park in his travel plans.

The Mets may be playing out the string, but they showed enough interest to expose a Phillies vulnerability in the 4-3 defeat at Citi Field that dropped Charlie Manuel's club into a first-place tie with Atlanta in the National League East.

The Phillies are in the stretch run without a reliable lefty out of the bullpen, a role Eyre filled admirably before he decided driving an RV with bone chips in his elbow was a lot less painful than throwing a baseball.

On two occasions, Manuel summoned lefties out of the bullpen in attempts to cool down the Mets' torrid lefthanded hitter, Ike Davis. Neither young Antonio Bastardo nor veteran J.C. Romero got the job done.

The Phillies were able to survive the base hit Bastardo allowed to Davis in the sixth with no damage, but the Mets' eventual game-winner was one of the two runs Davis drove home with a two-out, bases-loaded single up the middle off Romero in the seventh.

Romero left himself no wiggle room when he went 3-0 in the count.

"It feels like the last few outings I've lost a little command, but I had a couple days off," Romero said. "I felt the first couple pitches I was a little timid, so I got aggressive and then it was a ground ball through the middle. So I'll be ready to go tomorrow."

Romero, who began the season on the disabled list following elbow surgery during the off-season, said he's fine physically. Certainly, Romero has had games in which he resembled the effective pitcher he was in 2008. His season became truncated in '09 because of a 50-game suspension for using a banned substance, followed by elbow problems that brought his season to a premature ending.

Lefties are hitting .205 against Romero, which is fine. But he's walked 26 batters in 32 innings, which is not fine for a guy who's usually called on with runners on base.

Manuel acknowledged he was concerned about Romero's command problems.

"It looks to me like he's - everything's down and way in on lefties," Manuel said. "I know we need J.C. to pitch good for us, of course."

Asked if the Phillies can win without a reliable lefty out of the bullpen, Manuel said, "We've won before by mixing and matching."

Meantime, the Phillies are hoping Bastardo will show some of what he did while he dominated at triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"He's got a chance to be a good pitcher," Manuel said. "He's got a good arm. He needs experience. Today was a tough way to get it, but somewhere down the road he'll get one. But right now that's asking a lot of him. When the time comes I've got to use somebody, and they had that lefty [Davis] standing there, so I figured we'd use him.

"He had command problems with his breaking ball. But like I said, he's young."

If the Phillies make the playoffs, the situation could arise when Manuel will want to match a lefty reliever against, perhaps, Joey Votto of Cincinnati or Jason Heyward of Atlanta. Mixing and matching isn't the way he'd prefer to go.


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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