Monday, December 22, 2014

Why did Charlie drop Cliff Lee's name?

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- They scored. They stole bases. They won. Finally.

Why did Charlie drop Cliff Lee's name?

"[Cliff Lee] keeps the game on his flow, his tempo, his speed," Charlie Manuel said. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
"[Cliff Lee] keeps the game on his flow, his tempo, his speed," Charlie Manuel said. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- They scored. They stole bases. They won. Finally.

OK, there was one reason for Charlie Manuel not to celebrate after the Phillies' 3-2 victory over Florida on Friday night.

He was peeved at Kyle Kendrick -- not so much about the results, but the way his righthander pitched.

"Kendrick has to pick it up," Manuel said. "He has to get the flow of the game, the tempo and rhythm going. He picked it up a little bit there in the last two innings, but when he threw the ball, he was taking way too much time. He knows how many pitches he's got.

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"Don't get me wrong: I want him to feel comfortable pitching. But at the same time, when he stands there and acts like he's afraid to throw the ball, a lot of things happen. Some mental stress sets in. You take the flow and energy out of the game."

Harsh words. And then, Manuel went there. He talked about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

"You know what one of Cliff Lee's biggest things is? He gets the ball, throws it and keeps you on your toes. The defense is always ready. He keeps the game on his flow, his tempo, his speed. [Jamie] Moyer can speed the game up and slow it down. But Kyle, he has to get rhythm and stuff going."

Manuel said he wasn't trying to send Kendrick a message; he told his pitcher the same things he told reporters.

Kendrick allowed two unearned runs in six innings against Florida. The two runs were of his doing, though, on a bad throwing error in the third inning. He easily fielded a comebacker off the bat of Hanley Ramirez with two runners on and two outs but threw wildly to first, allowing both runs to score.

But Kendrick, albeit at a slow and maddening pace, limited the Marlins. He allowed five hits and walked none.

And consider this: Ever since those disastrous first two starts against Washington that left Kendrick's ERA at 17.47, he has a 3.62 ERA in his last eight starts. In those games, the Phillies are 4-4. He's been very much what a team needs from its fifth starter.

He's done all of this with a painfully bad strikeout to walk ratio of 23 to 17. But that's always been a trademark of Kendrick: He doesn't miss very many bats. He pitches to contact and he will always need a degree of luck to be successful.

Manuel would like to see a more poised Kendrick.

"He's been keeping us in the game," Manuel said. "Don't get me wrong. But there's room for improvement. He can do it."

Matt Gelb Inquirer Staff Writer
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