The first splitter B.J. Rosenberg threw Bryce Harper was right at Carlos Ruiz's mitt. Harper waved and missed when the ball dipped at the last moment. Rosenberg was the sixth and final arm used in a pitching nightmare that was Tuesday's 9-6 loss to Washington, but he represented promise.
Harper whiffed at a 96 m.p.h. fastball on the inside corner. The 20-year-old wunderkind worked a full count. Rosenberg countered with another split, and it dropped so quick that it fooled both Harper and Ruiz. The ball skipped to the backstop. Harper reached on a strikeout while a run scored on the wild pitch.
"My stuff is better out of the bullpen," Rosenberg said. "My slider is sharper. My curveball is better. Throwing the split last night with Harper helped."
Those are words that should interest the relief-desperate Phillies. Rosenberg turns 28 later this month. His hair his shaggier and the goatee more prominent in this, his second major-league season. He is comfortable. Maybe there is something in that right arm, long overlooked, worth watching.
Interim manager Ryne Sandberg has noticed. Rosenberg has appeared in the eighth inning or later in nine of his 10 games since being recalled in August. All but two of the games were tight scores. He has yet to allow a run in 8 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts.
"He's had the opportunity to pitch in big situations since coming back," Sandberg said. "Quality shows. And it's two power pitches."
Rosenberg, actually, is throwing five different pitches. That makes him most intriguing. Many relievers feature just two reliable options. Rosenberg, a converted starter, throws a fastball that has topped at 97 m.p.h., a sinker, a slider, a curveball and that split change-up.
He used all five in the span of 18 pitches Tuesday.
"Keep them guessing," Rosenberg said.
Effective relief pitchers can spawn from the unlikeliest scenarios. Rosenberg said he will alter his offseason throwing program to better prepare to win a job next spring. His late-season performance could boost those chances.
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