Charlie Manuel admittedly didn’t want to throw Jake Diekman to the fire, but his options were limited so the rookie couldn’t have faced a more difficult situation for his Major League debut.
Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo were not available for duty due to their recent work load.
So as all know by now, Diekman entered Tuesday’s 4-3 10-inning win over Houston with the score tied 3-3 and runners on second and third and two outs in the ninth.
He ended the inning with a strikeout, got two more in retiring the side the next inning and earned his first big league win in his debut.
He also likely earned more meaningful innings.
“We didn’t want to put Diekman in that situation,” Manuel said. “But we figured, where the game was, we might as well throw him out there and let him pitch in the big leagues.”
And pitch he did.
What’s interesting is that the lefthander made quite an impression on Manuel, pitching coach Rich Dubee and the players during spring training.
“We saw in spring training what he had,” said Brian Schneider, who hit a two-run home run in the win. “He is tough to catch, and he has electric stuff.”
It sure looked that way in his debut.
“I am proud of the way he came in and threw strikes in a situation where you don’t want to give them a run,” Schneider said. “He came in a big situation and got the job done and I am proud of him.”
Cliff Lee, who lowered his ERA to 1.95 after allowing just one run in eight innings while striking out 10, was equally impressed.
“It was good, he struck out the first hitter he faced in the big leagues,” Lee said. “He’s got unbelievable stuff and I expect a lot more of that.”
Hunter Pence, who hit the walk-off home run following a ninth inning defensive gaffe, added more praise.
“Diekman came in and pitched really well for his debut and really carried us,” Pence said.
So despite the fact that Diekman was an unexpected hero in his debut, his teammates weren’t very surprised.
Actually, Diekman himself seemed a little surprised that his first situation he was thrown into the baseball furnace.
Yet it forced him to react instead of thinking too much.
“I really didn’t have any time to get nervous whatsoever,” Diekman said.
Who knows where this will lead?
For a Phillies bullpen that has blown seven of 17 save opportunities, any infusion of talent will be welcome.
He couldn’t have asked for a better debut. And the Phillies, could have received a more necessary lift from somebody whose development will be interesting to monitor over the coming weeks.