WASHINGTON -- Ryan Madson had a devious smirk on his face in the Phillies clubhouse following the team's 8-4 victory over the Nationals on Wednesday night.
Madson was happy to have earned the four-out save in his first chance of the season. But he loved the fact that he dropped a curveball on Ryan Zimmerman in the ninth inning.
"He's probably talking about it over there right now," Madson said.
Madson hadn't thrown a curveball since he was a starter in 2006. He worked on the pitch this spring, mainly to "give them something else to think about." Madson probably won't use the pitch often, but it does give him another option.
Madson is the most crucial cog in this makeshift April bullpen. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has faith in his setup man turned closer. And if Madson falters, Danys Baez could be a second option, but he hasn't looked particularly good the past four weeks.
Manuel understands the situation.
"I can see myself going to Madson pretty often," the manager said.
And for good reason. On Wednesday night, Manuel turned to Madson for four outs. That will not happen regularly, Manuel said, because he wants to be able to use Madson consecutively in three, four or even five-day spans.
To do that, he said, Madson must be kept to one inning.
We've talked about it in this space before, but Madson's numbers on back-to-back days were mind-boggling in 2009. In 28 1/3 innings on no rest, Madson had a 2.86 ERA. He struck out 32 batters and walked two (!) while holding opponents to a .210 batting average.
Madson allowed two hits in the ninth inning Wednesday night but got Ivan Rodriguez to ground into a game-ending double play. He needed just 13 pitches for four outs.
The rest of the bullpen worked nearly to perfection. Chad Durbin navigated through the sixth and seventh innings using 36 pitches. Baez stumbled in the eighth, allowing a run on two extra-base hits. But young lefty Antonio Bastardo retired the lefthander Nyjer Morgan on one 94 m.p.h. fastball for the second out. Then Madson struck out Ian Desmond to end the eighth.
"Like anything early, the first time you do it, it's to get your feet wet," Madson said.
It wasn't a bad first night for the interim closer and his bullpen mates.