Phillies Notebook: Manuel: Disabled Contreras not overused

An MRI exam could be ahead for Jose Contreras. (Michael Bryant/Staff file photo)
An MRI exam could be ahead for Jose Contreras. (Michael Bryant/Staff file photo) (Jonathan Tannenwald)
Posted: April 26, 2011

PHOENIX - Charlie Manuel says he has no doubts about the way he used 39-year-old closer Jose Contreras in the week leading up to his trip to the disabled list.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who on Sunday said a heavy workload is the main reason Contreras is headed for an MRI on his ailing elbow today, repeated a similar refrain.

"Charlie has done a great job with our guys," Amaro said. "I don't have any issue at all with how Charlie is using our guys."

But something was stuck in Manuel's craw yesterday when he spoke with reporters who questioned him about his use of Contreras and the rest of the Phillies' ailing bullpen.

"I don't think he had been used a lot," Manuel said of the righthander, who was placed on the DL with a flexor pronator strain that occurred at the end of a stretch in which he threw 72 pitches over four games in 5 days. "Really. What's today? April 25? It's April 25 and I already hear our guys need days off. Guys need this. Guys need that. I've been listening to that for about 4 or 5 years now.

"The object of it is, like I tell our guys in the meetings, the brass, the object is for us to win the game. Every day we come to the ballpark, that's the object, to win the game. Now do you want to win or do you want to lose? To me, I want to win so I'll put the best team I possibly can on the field that day. I'll give you days off when I think so. That's part of my job, too.

"If I'm going to be accountable for my job, then you let me do the whole thing. You basically let me do my whole job. I don't need nobody to tell me what to do and how to do it. It's up to me to do it. That's how I look at it. If you want to talk about it and say something about it, that's fine, too."

What, exactly, prompted the fiery response is unclear. Contreras, who took over as closer after Brad Lidge went on the DL with a rotator-cuff strain, had converted his first five save opportunities and had yet to allow a run in eight innings. But in a 3-0 win over the Padres on Thursday, it took him a season-high 26 pitches to finish the ninth inning. It was his fourth appearance in 5 days and fifth appearance in 7 days. The Phillies said Contreras began to feel pain in his elbow after the outing.

"He had been pitching quite a bit," Amaro said Sunday. "I think it was just the work that he's done. He didn't indicate it was one pitch, just over time, especially after his outing on Thursday."

Amaro also admitted that the Phillies were extremely thin in their bullpen. When Contreras pitched on Thursday, setup man Ryan Madson was unavailable with what he and the team described as normal soreness after a stretch in which he pitched four times in 6 days. Lefthander Antonio Bastardo and righthander David Herndon already had pitched that night. The only other options for the ninth inning were lefty specialist Mike Zagurski and pitch-to-contact righthanders Kyle Kendrick and Danys Baez.

Yesterday, Manuel was asked whether he felt he had enough personnel to avoid using Contreras on Thursday. The manager responded that he wasn't trying to stay away from the closer.

"I feel like, first of all, that there's no way in hell we overused Contreras," Manuel said. "That's how I feel. There's no way. What did he pitch? The most games was three. Then he had a day off. He pitched five times in 7 days. We weren't trying to stay away from him. He was closing games for us. That's how I look at it."

Manuel declined to say whether anybody in the organization suggested that he had overused Contreras. "That's none of your business," he said.

A few minutes later, he continued to explain his philosophy.

"We still have to play the game the right way," Manuel said. "Over the years, I get tired of hearing people say we want him healthy in October. October is a long ways off. It's April 25. A lot of times, hell, there's a lot of people that aren't going to make October."

Where is that talk coming from? "It's coming from me today, all right?" he said. "That's where it's coming from. I hear it all the time. I hear it from [the media]. From everybody. From everybody around the ballpark."

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