The Phillies' post-season roster surprise.
Rich Hofmann, Daily News Sports Columnist
Cliff Lee as the Game 1 starter makes perfect sense and is not a surprise (at least it isn't a surprise to avid readers of High Cheese). There really is no risk here. It keeps people on their regular turns and it keeps both Lee and Cole Hamels available for a potential Game 5 against the Rockies. It is no big deal.
The most important decisions will involve, a) the closer (and manager Charlie Manuel ain't telling) and, b) the way they use J.A. Happ in the first two games, if they use him at all. These are where Manuel will earn his money -- when or if to use Happ against a big lefty in a big spot out of the bullpen in the first two games, and then when to fit him into the starting rotation after that. These are the issues that will be ripe for second-guessing if the thing blows up. The Game 1 starter will be a footnote.
But this lefty thing has been a fixation for Manuel, with good reason. It is the only explanation for the final roster move: Antonio Bastardo, in.
When they called up Bastardo the other day, quiet glances were exchanged among the people paying attention. It wasn't a big deal, but, well, they weren't bringing him up just for the hell of it. Bastardo went on the disabled list in late June with a shoulder strain and the assumption was that his season was done. But when it became more and more clear that Scott Eyre -- despite having an elbow injury -- would be the only lefty in the bullpen, and when it became clear that the Phils were going to have to face lefty Todd Helton five times a game in the first round of the playoffs, suddenly the talk began about Happ's hybrid role. And then Bastardo showed up, quietly.
He pitched once, Saturday, with the champagne smell finally wearing off. He pitched one inning, threw 13 pitches, reached about 94 mph on the radar gun, walked one guy.
And, now, here he is.
"They've got some guys who have been really good left-hand bats off the bench," Manuel said, referring specifically to Jason Giambi and Seth Smith. "I think that any time we can put a lefty on them, I think that that might be the best way to go...It's always good to be able to put a lefthander on that lefthanded hitter if that's his weakness."
Giambi has arguably been better against lefties this year. But Smith hits 40 points less against lefties with less power, and Helton's power numbers are much, much lower against lefties. Against righties, he has 14 homers in 439 plate appearances. Against lefties, he has one homer in 206 plate appearances.
And the wheels turn.