Phillies Notebook: Testing the waters with Schwimer

Posted: August 14, 2012

WE HAVE REACHED a point where the standings play as big of a role as the situation, and so it was that Charlie Manuel decided to give Michael Schwimer a crack at the inning that has bedeviled his bullpen all season.

The 26-year-old rookie is the kind of player who will help shape future roster decisions, and with the Phillies well outside of the playoff race, now would seem to be a good time to get a firm handle on what, exactly, they have on their roster. At least, that seemed to be the thinking when Manuel tapped Schwimer to face the Cardinals with the score tied in the top of the eighth on Sunday.

Schwimer entered the afternoon having retired 18 of the previous 22 batters he had faced, 12 of those outs coming via strikeout. Since early June, when he returned from a demotion to Triple A Lehigh Valley, the righthander had allowed just six earned runs with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 25 1/3 innings (that's a 2.13 ERA). But his opportunities in late-and-close situations had been limited.

Tony Cruz led off with a bloop single that fell in front of Juan Pierre, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Rafael Furcal. Schwimer then walked the righthanded hitting David Freese, which meant facing lefty Jon Jay without an open base. Jay, who had already reached base twice against righthander Vance Worley, drilled a 2-1 fastball from Schwimer to the left-centerfield gap to score two base runners. He then scored on a single by lefty Matt Carpenter.

Manuel could have gone to his bullpen, where lefties Jeremy Horst and Antonio Bastardo were available, before the at-bat against Jay. But that would have meant using his fourth reliever of the day, leaving two for the rest of the game. Besides, the Phillies have reached a point where the future value gained by exposing a young pitcher like Schwimer to a high-pressure situation against a playoff-caliber team trumps the present-day value of a victory.

"If we bring a lefty in there, if they get the two outs, we still have to face [Matt] Holliday and [Carlos] Beltran, but at the same time, we definitely wanted Schwimer to throw the eighth," Manuel said. "We're trying to find that guy that we want to use."

Despite the hiccup, Schwimer should get more opportunities.

Decision time

After Erik Kratz led off the bottom of the 11th with a double, Manuel opted against bunting Jimmy Rollins in an attempt to move the winning run to third base with one out. Manuel's reason? Brian Schneider was on deck, which would have pitted a lefthanded hitter against lefty reliever Barret Browning. Lefty Juan Pierre was in the hole.

"Schneider hadn't hit off a lefthander this year hardly at all," Manuel said. "I had Schneider and Pierre coming, I figured I'd let Jimmy hit there."

Rollins ended up hitting a ground ball to the left side of the infield, which resulted in Kratz getting thrown out at third. But the shortstop did make a key play, stealing third base with Pierre at the plate, putting himself into position to score on Pierre's infield single that won the game.

Phillers

Michael Martinez started at shortstop for just the second time this year and made an impressive play in the first inning, getting knocked to the ground while backhanding a sharp one-hopper from Carlos Beltran and then popping up to deliver a strike to first . . . Kratz, who was one of the Phillies' hottest hitters during a 2-week stretch in late July and early August, entered the afternoon 0-for-9 with a walk and four strikeouts over his three previous starts. He finished with a home run and a double.

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