ATLANTA — After the Phillies lost Friday night, half of the team returned to the clubhouse at SunTrust Park to find black jackets, black wigs, and white T-shirts in their lockers. A rookie initiation does not typically involve a group that large, but this is a rebuilding team, and the Phillies are auditioning for the future. So more than a dozen men danced to “Greased Lightning” in the hotel lobby.
It was a silly, choreographed joke. The players had fun.
“It was pretty cool,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “They really did a good job. They were into it.”
Then, on Saturday, they held a lead for seven innings. They lost when Luis Garcia entered. A 4-2 defeat to Atlanta highlighted the need for late-inning reinforcements, which should come this winter.
This month is more than a musical tryout — it is a chance to see who rises and falls with different roles. Garcia, 30, has been inconsistent as the team’s setup man. The Phillies could sign a veteran reliever or two, insert them in the later innings, and bump everyone else back. That could restore Hector Neris to his eighth-inning job. Adam Morgan, who tossed another scoreless inning Saturday, has emerged as a lefthanded weapon.
Garcia has a 2.77 ERA. It is 4.23 in the eighth inning.
“He’s had some good moments and some bad moments like tonight,” Mackanin said. “When you’re pitching in a clutch situation like that, you can’t fall behind hitters. You’ve got to get ahead.”
Before Garcia blew Saturday’s game by allowing three runs in the eighth inning, Henderson Alvarez was situated for his first win in exactly three years. Alvarez pitched five scoreless innings. He received a no-decision.
“It is what it is,” Alvarez said through a team interpreter. “That’s the way baseball is sometimes. … There are things you cannot control. You just go out there and try your best.”
It is possible that he will shift to the bullpen for the season’s final week.
“Just to be on the safe side, I’d like to think about putting one of those guys in the bullpen to give us some protection,” Mackanin said. “There’s nobody to call up if we need a fresh arm.”
If Alvarez exits the rotation, that would allow Aaron Nola to make two starts in the last week — Monday against Washington and Oct. 1, the season finale, against New York. Nola has thrown 162 innings.
Rio Ruiz’s solo home run against Kevin Siegrist in the sixth inning was the 215th surrendered by the Phillies this season. That is a franchise record. Earlier in the week, the major-league record for homers in a season was broken. … Two rookies, a Canadian and Brazilian, will pitch Sunday. It’s Nick Pivetta against Luiz Gohara.