Friday, February 5, 2016

A peek into Ryne Sandberg's bullpen strategy

The second game launched questions about Ryne Sandberg's bullpen usage and dearth of trustworthy righthanded options.

A peek into Ryne Sandberg's bullpen strategy

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

ARLINGTON, Texas — Mario Hollands, a 25-year-old pitcher left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft making the major-league minimum of $500,000, tossed inside the visitors bullpen at Globe Life Park next to Jonathan Papelbon, the richest reliever in baseball. The Phillies batted in the ninth inning of a tie game, and bullpen coach Rod Nichols told Hollands the ball was his if the game remained tied.

"I knew," Hollands said.

This was a hell of a spot for a major-league debut. Lefties Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder were due for the Rangers. Ryne Sandberg already used his other two lefties — Jake Diekman and Antonio Bastardo — for the second straight day.

Hollands was his choice.

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"That's a tough spot for him," Sandberg said.

The second game, a 3-2 loss, launched questions about Sandberg's bullpen usage and dearth of trustworthy righthanded options. B.J. Rosenberg pitched for the second straight day, and he inherited Hollands' mess. Adrian Beltre blasted a single to right. Game over.

Three of Rosenberg's four inherited runners have scored in 2014.

The 28-year-old former 13th-round draft pick carried a career 5.44 ERA into the season. He endeared himself to Sandberg in the final months last year, and the manager said there is a reason why Rosenberg pitched in tight situations to start 2014.

"Coming out of spring training," Sandberg said, "he was throwing the best as far as throwing strikes and doing the job as a seventh- or eighth-inning righthanded pitcher."

That is an early indictment of Brad Lincoln, for whom the Phillies traded two players last winter, and Justin De Fratus. Neither Lincoln nor De Fratus have yet to warm up in the season's first two games.

The mistrust was evident in the eighth inning, when Bastardo was asked to retire the weak bottom of Texas' lineup, which featured one lefthanded batter. Sandberg did not see the value in saving Bastardo for the big lefties in the ninth.

"Being on the road, Bastardo is our eighth-inning guy," Sandberg said. "We're trying to put up a zero up there and score in our half of the inning. We went that route. There's always consideration for everyone down there."

The Phillies hope to add Mike Adams, who is owed $7 million in 2014, sometime this month. He could jump to the top of the depth chart despite being an unknown after extensive shoulder surgery last summer.

Either way, someone other than Diekman, Bastardo or Rosenberg must record outs Wednesday when the Phillies bullpen door opens.

Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.

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