Friday, December 26, 2014

Roster problems forced Manuel to burn his bench players

It was a 5-4 walk-off win against a divisional rival, a great way to start a six-game homestand for a team that had just endured a 3-7 road trip.

Roster problems forced Manuel to burn his bench players

Phillies center fielder Ben Revere. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Phillies center fielder Ben Revere. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

It was a 5-4 walk-off win against a divisional rival, a great way to start a six-game homestand for a team that had just endured a 3-7 road trip.

And still, the Phillies' roster limitations were on display.

It was the bottom of the ninth and manager Charlie Manuel was out of bench players. Not because he had mismanaged the game, but because he was trying to win with a team that has too many flaws.

In the top of the eighth with his team up by two, Manuel sent Freddy Galvis out to play second base for Kevin Frandsen and John Mayberry Jr. out to play right field for Delmon Young. Frandsen -- a minor-league free agent the Phillies deserve credit for acquiring -- has played great for this team the last two seasons and he works hard on his defense, but it's still not his strength. Mayberry for Young in right field is a no brainer.

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That's two bench players down, however.

In the bottom of the eighth with the Phillies' lead down to one, Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown opened the inning with consecutive singles. Manuel sent Michael Martinez in as a pinch-runner. The manager wanted that insurance run for closer Jonathan Papelbon and knows that Martinez can score a lot easier from second base than Howard, whose balky left knee has made him a liability on the bases.

When the next two hitters failed to advance the runners and Humberto Quintero was hit by a pitch, Manuel was forced to use Laynce Nix to hit for pitcher Antonio Bastardo. Nix struck out and the inning was over.

Four bench players had been burned in one inning.

The roster situation will improve when Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz return because Manuel will not have to send in a defensive replacement at second base or feel the need to hit for his catcher as he has done for Quintero in the late innings.

Still, the Howard knee problem is a difficult one. After Papelbon blew a save opportunity for the first time this season, Howard's spot in the order came up with a man on third and one out in the ninth. Papelbon was now in that spot and Manuel was forced to use his final bench player, left-handed hitting catcher Steven Lerud.

Lerud struck out against Fernando Abad, a quality lefthanded reliever, leaving Brown in a situation where he had to come through with a two-out hit. Fortunately for the Phillies, Brown delivered.

"I don't care about second guessing," Manuel said. "But our best defense goes on the field if possible, especially when we are winning. If we are losing, that's something different. What happened was that we ran for Howard and once we used Nix up, Lerud was the only guy we had left. We ran out of players and that's not good."

It never is, but it shows the limitations of Manuel's roster at the moment.

Bob Brookover Inquirer Columnist
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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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