Rich Hofmann: Manuel and Dubee: A trusting relationship for Phillies

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"I do trust Rich a lot," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of pitching coach Rich Dubee. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

SAN FRANCISCO - Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. Phillies lead, 6-1. Two on, two out, bottom of the eighth inning. Starter Roy Oswalt still on the mound but near the end. A baseball moment.

In the Phillies' dugout, manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee speak a few hurried words to each other, one of an on-again, off-again, never-ending series of talks that will take place over nine innings. They have been together for 6 years now. While they are not like an old married couple that finishes each other's sentences - mostly because nobody finishes Manuel's sentences when he gets going on a topic, not even Manuel himself - there is an obvious level of comfort there.

When Manuel popped out of the dugout and walked to the mound, most people watching figured the manager was going to make a pitching change. He did not, though.

The visit had been orchestrated with Dubee beforehand.

"We had a conversation before he went out," Dubee said. "He asked me, 'What do you think?' I said, 'I think he's OK.' But we haven't seen him go 100, 110 pitches too often, and knowing him, I said, 'I think you need to go out there and check with him.'

"I said, 'I think he's all right - but if he isn't, we probably want to put [lefthanded reliever J.C.] Romero on [the Giants' Aubrey] Huff. But I'd go talk to him first.' That's what he did, and he got the right answers."

Oswalt stayed in the game and got Huff to fly out to centerfield. The crisis was averted. Soon, the series was tied at one game each. It was just another night in October.

Dubee is paid to give Manuel his opinions. Most of the time, he says, the manager accepts his expertise and takes his advice. Sometimes he doesn't, though. It is how the business works.

But Manuel says, "I do trust Rich a lot." And so, a lot of Dubee's mound visits are made without consulting the manager. Watching on television, they do not sit near each other in the dugout. Manuel is at the home-plate end, studying what is going on at the plate - his expertise. Dubee is keeping a notebook of what he is seeing from the other end as he studies the mound. The cameras rarely catch them talking, yet every move to the bullpen is discussed.

"We generally have a conversation," Dubee said. "A lot of times, it's before an inning starts. If I think we need to get somebody up, I'll say, 'How about so-and-so and so-and-so?' He'll usually say, 'OK, that's fine.' But if he wants somebody else, he'll tell me what he wants. But I'll generally go over to the phone and get somebody going.

"The thing is, I always want him to have an option, to have somebody else available if he needs it. So when it comes time for a change, we'll discuss it."

Before and after the nine innings are being played, though, Manuel pretty much leaves Dubee alone to work with the pitching staff. The topic - of a baseball coach's autonomy - is one of the subjects that Manuel talks about animatedly. He says he hires people for their expertise and he respects that expertise - because that is what he demanded during his days as a hitting coach.

"No one got in my area," Manuel said. "And I would fight you if you think you're going to come in . . .

"If I'm going to get fired, if somebody don't do the job, then I'll take the blame for it. But at the same time, don't ever come over in my area. Let me fire myself. I've always looked at it that way, and I look at our coaches that way, and I try to leave them alone, let them do their job."

Dubee said he and Manuel didn't know each other very well when they were paired as manager and pitching coach for the 2005 season, even though both of them were already in the organization. It is only natural that the relationship has grown over time. That growth, Dubee said, is "vital."

"I think you look at successful teams and there's been a relationship between the pitching guy and the manager, and often the hitting guy and the manager," Dubee said. "We've gotten to know each other since the beginning but, from Day 1, he's allowed me to do what I thought I had to do and has had a lot of trust in it. I think he understands that it gets taken care of, so it's one less thing on his list of things to worry about."

Ask Manuel about Dubee and he talks about organization and communication. The two of them have had all kinds of pitching staffs in their years together, but none like this one. Their biggest decision in this series is likely to be whether or not to pitch Roy Halladay on 3 days' rest in Game 4, which could set off a potential chain reaction of Oswalt, Cole Hamels and then Halladay in Game 7 all pitching on 3 days' rest in succession.

Manuel is playing it coy, leaving open the possibility. Dubee will offer his advice to one set of ears only, and will undoubtedly present a united front, whatever the decision. It is what he does.

Speaking not about this big decision, but about the dozens of smaller decisions in a baseball season, Dubee did acknowledge that Manuel usually heeds his advice.

"He does, for the most part," Dubee said. "But when he doesn't, I understand it because there's only one captain. He gets paid to make the tough calls. I think a lot of times as a pitching coach, you can get caught up being too sensitive to your guys. He, as a manager, has the right to voice who he wants to pitch."

And he will.

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