The Phillies' stint against the Mets has been a little like watching The Apprentice - young and inexperienced protégés going up against hard-core New Yorkers.
It's not an easy way to break into a job, and pitcher J.A. Happ realized that quickly yesterday in the Phillies' 8-3 loss to the New York Mets.
After just four innings, the Phillies concluded he was not the answer to their ailing rotation and sent him back to the minor leagues.
"I feel like he gutted it out," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I liked the fact that he stayed there. I like his poise. I think down the road, he'll be a real good pitcher."
The Phillies could use a real good pitcher right now.
The third straight loss to the first-place Mets dropped the Phillies to six games behind them in the National League East.
Perhaps symbolically, Aaron Rowand hung over the Citizens Bank Park bullpen fence for a few moments after nearly nabbing a home run by the Mets' Carlos Beltran.
The ball hit Rowand's glove and twisted it around on his hand, leaving the centerfielder without the ball and folded over at the waist on the fence in the seventh inning.
It was not the only time the Phillies felt as if they had taken a shot to the gut.
"We took the field with the attitude we were going to go out and win some ball games," Rowand said. "It didn't finish out the way we wanted it to."
Happ was hardly eased into the majors in front of a sellout crowd of 45,003.
He gave up three home runs and five runs total on seven hits. In the first inning, he allowed two home runs and five hits for a 3-0 Mets lead.
"I was nervous before I went in," Happ said. "I was OK after that."
The Phillies had little choice but to use a rotation of youngsters.
Jon Lieber (foot), Freddy Garcia (shoulder), closer Tom Gordon (shoulder), and closer Brett Myers (shoulder) are all sidelined with injuries.
Kyle Kendrick will make his fourth career start today. Rookie J.D. Durbin was fed to the Mets in the second loss of the Friday doubleheader.
"We got in a spot where we had to throw young guys at them," Manuel said. "We just ran into a series where we have to throw what we've got. That's how it is."
No one on the team is pointing fingers at the young pitchers. Six pitchers have made their major-league debuts with the Phillies this season.
"It's tough, I'm sure, for these guys their first time out," rightfielder Shane Victorino said. "You can't put any blame on them."
After the rocky first inning, Happ looked as if he had settled down.
After giving up homers to Paul Lo Duca and David Wright in the first inning, Happ pitched three scoreless innings.
"I was thinking you have to stay aggressive," he said.
In the fifth inning, Happ walked Lo Duca. Then Beltran, who also hit two homers in the second game on Friday, hit a home run into left field for a 5-3 lead.
The Phillies' offense was not much help.
Ryan Howard blasted a 450-foot home run to start the fourth inning and tied the game, 3-3.
But the Phillies managed just three hits after that.
Happ's demotion was one of a few roster changes the Phillies made yesterday.
The Phillies brought up Anderson Garcia, another rookie, in place of Happ. They also sent righthanded reliever Geoff Geary to triple-A Ottawa and put Gordon on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Happ on the 40-man roster.
"It's probably for the better," Geary said. "I'm going to go down there, and I'll see you guys soon."
For a photo gallery of yesterday's game, go to http://go.philly.
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Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.