ATLANTA - The Phillies will find out Monday night who will represent them in the All-Star Game next week. Baseball's worst team will likely be represented by just one player for the second straight season. Interim manager Pete Mackanin said he sees closer Jonathan Papelbon as the most worthy candidate to play for the National League on July 14 in Cincinnati.
"The save numbers aren't there, but when you look at the other numbers, he's been very efficient," Mackanin said. "He's the first guy that comes to mind. I don't know if there's anyone else. He would be a guy that I would have to believe is under consideration."
Papelbon has a 1.65 ERA in 30 appearances this season. He has had just 14 save chances. Papelbon has converted them all. The righthander was last selected for the All-Star Game in 2012. He believed he was snubbed from last year's event.
Papelbon pitched the 10th inning with a 4-0 lead on Sunday, having gotten only one save chance in the team's last 14 games. Mackanin thought he might have needed him for the ninth inning of a 2-1 loss on Friday. He asked pitching coach Bob McClure if Papelbon would be ready if the Phillies rallied.
"He said, 'Pete, his shoes are tied. Once his shoes are tied, he's great. He can get ready after five pitches,' " Mackanin said. "That's huge. He's always ready. I know he has his issues, but at the same time he goes out there and competes well and knows what he's doing."
Papelbon, 34, has adjusted the last few seasons as his fastball's velocity has waned. The pitch has hovered around 90 m.p.h., according to the PitchF/X pitch-tracking website. He has relied on the pitch less this season than he has his whole career. He has thrown either a slider or splitter 36 percent of the time. Mackanin remembered seeing Papelbon for the first time during interleague play in 2009. Mackanin said Papelbon's fastball zipped at 97 m.p.h. and was paired with a "nasty splitter."
"It was like 'game over,' " Mackanin said. "Now he doesn't have the velocity. But when you look at his numbers, you have to believe that he knows what he's doing. He doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes. When he does, he pitches around them."
The Phillies acquired the No. 1 international signing slot from Arizona in exchange for their No. 9 slot and minor-league pitchers Chris Oliver and Josh Taylor. The move increases the team's spending allowance from $3 million to $5.4 million.
The new slot allows the Phillies to sign Dominican slugger Jhailyn Ortiz and Venezuelan catcher Rafael Marchan without being penalized in next year's international free-agent market. The Phils reportedly reached an agreement with both players on Thursday, the opening of this year's international market. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team has not signed the 16-year-old Ortiz but hopes to have something done in a couple of weeks.
- Matt Breen