Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made it clear he has serious doubts that Brett Myers will be able to help the club as a closer because the righthander is feeling the effects of his long layoff following hip surgery in early June.
"Watching him the three or four times we've run him out there, he's not quite ready" to be a closer, Manuel said before the Phillies finished a seven-game homestand last night against Washington. "He still has some problems at times. . . . It's kind of like he's back in spring training. He's not 100 percent. He has soreness, which is kind of normal because he missed so much time.
"Right now, he's not ready to be turned loose."
A successful closer two years ago before the Phillies acquired Brad Lidge, Myers figured to be an option for the struggling Lidge when he returned on Sept. 3 after missing three months following June 4 surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Myers has made five appearances covering 42/3 innings as a late reliever since he came off the disabled list. He held teams scoreless in four of them.
Manuel did not rule out the possibility that Myers could be ready to close games in the postseason, but he did not seem optimistic.
If Myers is not an option as a closer, the job belongs to Lidge and Ryan Madson, who have combined to blow 16 saves this season. Obviously, neither has inspired confidence. Yet, Manuel indicated he'll continue to give Lidge opportunities to become consistent in the final 21/2 weeks of the regular season.
"Actually, we're trying to do whatever it takes to get Lidge going," Manuel said. "Give him a break, then run him back out there and see if he'll start relaxing and being consistent. We've got to have Madson doing that, too."
Manuel denied he was continuing to give Lidge chances out of loyalty for what the righthander accomplished last season, when he had 48 saves in 48 save situations. This season, Lidge has blown 10 saves.
"It's not staying loyal to the guy," he said. "How can I be staying loyal to a guy when he's the best we've got and he's the one who did it? He did it. Can he do it again? Let's get a chance to see. What if I put somebody else out there and he doesn't do it?"
The Phillies said reliever Chan Ho Park has a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring and will be sidelined for two to three weeks.
Park, who suffered the injury while delivering a pitch Wednesday night, got the diagnosis after undergoing a scan yesterday.
Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said the club hoped Park could return if the Phils make the postseason.
"He's going to stay with the club for the next few days and then report to Clearwater to continue his rehab," Proefrock said.
Despite his desire to start, Park, 36, has proved valuable out of the bullpen. He has a 2.52 ERA and 15 holds with 52 strikeouts in 50 innings of relief. He has held teams scoreless in 10 of his last 11 appearances.
Manuel said he would rely on Tyler Walker and Chad Durbin to fill the void.
After missing two starts with strained muscles near his rib cage, lefthander J.A. Happ returns to the rotation tonight when the Phillies open a 10-game road trip in Atlanta. "He's all right. I think he's fine, really," said Manuel, who expressed some doubt earlier in the week that Happ would be ready. . . . Ben Francisco started in left field for Raul Ibanez. Manuel said he simply wanted to give Ibanez a break as the team prepares to play 17 games in the final 17 days of the regular season. "Plus, I wanted to get Francisco in there and make sure he plays now and then. I like Francisco. I'd like to find the time to play him more." . . . Ibanez batted in the seventh for centerfielder Shane Victorino, who left the game with what the club called a gastrointestinal illness.