PHOENIX - The Phillies desperately need someone to step up in their bullpen while closer
are on the disabled list with injuries.
Righthander Antonio Alfonseca would be nice. He had a 0.75 ERA after his first 11 appearances, but he has a 15.43 ERA in his last five.
"He plays a big role in our bullpen," manager Charlie Manuel said before last night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. "Even more now than before. . . . He's still got real good stuff. He's been there. But when you say somebody is struggling, how did they get those runs?"
Manuel did not see balls hit particularly hard off Alfonseca on Monday. In fact, he said, Alfonseca has been a victim of circumstance more than anything.
The manager thinks he is making the same quality pitches he had during his first 11 appearances, but now balls are falling in for hits.
"Things are happening to him right now," Manuel said.
The big man's health
was not in the starting lineup last night, as expected. The slugger will not start until Friday at the earliest, after team physician
examines his sore left quadriceps in Philadelphia.
"He said he's feeling OK," Manuel said. "Like I said yesterday, we're definitely trying to get him well, get him 100 percent, get him to where he feels good."
If Howard returns to the lineup Friday at home against the Chicago Cubs, he will have gone nearly five days without a start. He last started Sunday night in San Francisco.
Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins
behind him. Rowand entered last night fourth in the National League with a .359 average and fifth in the league with a .438 on-base percentage.
"He was the leadoff hitter at times in Chicago, so he has experience there," Manuel said.
Manuel also started Greg Dobbs for the first time since April 22 and the fourth time this season. Dobbs started at first base.
"This is a good day for him to play," Manuel said.
What would it take?
There is some thought that because of Victorino's production and Rollins' power potential, Manuel eventually could flip the two in the order when they are hitting first and second.
Manuel isn't there yet.
"It would take Victorino showing me that he can work the count and not chase bad pitches," Manuel said. "Sometimes when he struggles, he chases bad balls. Once he learns to work the count and be a little more patient, yeah, he can be a leadoff hitter. Of course he could.
"But I still like Jimmy there. Before I became manager, Jimmy was schooled to be in the No. 1 hole. I think he's definitely learned how to hit there. I never wanted to move him. Look at him compared to the rest of the leadoff hitters in the American and National Leagues and see where he stands."
Rollins entered last night with a .306 average and a team-high nine home runs.
- Todd Zolecki