Among the bags waiting to be loaded on the train carrying the Phillies to Washington early Friday morning was David Herndon's guitar.
"Gotta have something to do on the train," Herndon said.
The 90-minute train ride would be a happy one for the 25-year-old righthander. He is one of the few anonymous players on this 80-42 Phillies squad and rarely will a game hinge on any of his actions.
Consider Thursday Herndon's night then. Without a long man in the bullpen, Charlie Manuel figured Herndon could give him two innings. Herndon tossed three scoreless and allowed only one hit. He struck out a career-high four Diamondbacks in the 4-1 victory.
About an hour and 15 minutes into the lengthy delay, Herndon said he knew he would be the next one pitching. That allowed him some time to prepare for the outing, a rarity for middle relievers.
It wasn't necessarily the best thing.
"Well," Herndon said, "I'm a failed starter."
Either way, his stuff was crisp. Not only was his sinker located down in the strike zone, but his secondary pitches were thrown regularly for strikes. Eight of his 10 sliders were strikes. Four of his five change-ups were, too.
The Rule 5 selection from a season ago has quietly been serviceable in a forgotten role for the Phillies. He has not allowed a run in his last eight outings, over a total of 8 2/3 innings. Since his May recall, he has allowed an earned run in only three of his 22 appearances. His ERA during that span is 1.82.
When he achieves the long streaks of consistency, what changes?
"I try not to overthrow," Herndon said. "Earlier in the year I was trying to throw 95 every time out. I finally swallowed my pride and said, 'Just get it downhill.' As long as it's down in the zone, if it's 90, it's 90. If it's 93, it's 93. Who cares?"
If there is anything to be decided in the season's final 40 games (and there is not much), a few postseason bullpen roles are definitely up for grabs. Herndon has certainly made a fine case for his inclusion.
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