A big pitch - and play - for Herndon

David Herndon has a 4.76 ERA in 11 games this season. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

DENVER -- This was going to be a challenge, no one would dispute that. Keeping a Rule 5 pick on the roster for the entire season is a rarity, especially for a contending team, where each of the 25 roster spots are precious.

Righthander David Herndon hadn't pitched for nine days when Charlie Manuel called upon him in the seventh inning of Monday's game. With one out, there were runners on first and second of a tie game. Righty Melvin Mora was due up.

"I went to Herndon because we had a righthander standing there," Manuel said. "And I knew he had a sinker. I knew he's capable of throwing a ground ball."

Ahead in the count 0-2, Herndon threw Mora a 91 m.p.h. sinker down and inside. He hit it right back up the middle, where Chase Utley stabbed it. With the ball in his glove, he flipped it to shortstop Wilson Valez, who spun around and threw to first to complete the double play.

"Unbelievable," Herndon said. "Oh man. I threw the pitch, I didn't quite get it in to where I would have liked it to be. Chase made one heck of a play. I mean, all around. I was fired up."

"That's how Utley plays," Manuel said. "He'll make big plays at the right time."

It was the right time to use Herndon, Manuel said. In the first month of the season, the Rule 5 pick appeared in 10 of the Phillies' 22 games.

Herndon has a 4.76 ERA in 11 games this season. Five of his last six outings have been scoreless.

Work recently has been much harder to come by.

"He hadn't pitched in a while but I like him," Manuel said. "We just have to find the right places to put him in and get him some work."

Herndon said he had thrown two or three bullpen side sessions in the nine days he went without appearing in a game. He's worked with pitching coach Rich Dubee on ways to stay sharp.

"Sometimes when I'm down in the bullpen and there's a situation I could possibly come in, I use that time," Herndon said. "I work on fastball location, really get the breaking ball going."

But going nine days without facing live hitting can be a challenge. He stayed in the strike zone against Mora.

On Monday, he needed a spectacular play behind him, but Herndon did what he was asked to do: Let the opposing batter put the ball in play, on the ground.

"I could have gotten in a little more," Herndon said. "It wasn't a bad pitch."