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Phillies need lefthanded bat off the bench

The second-guessers had it all wrong when they questioned whether Roy Halladay stayed in too long Tuesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Ross Gload might not be good enough to be the Phillies' main lefthanded bat off the bench. (David M Warren/Staff file photo)
Ross Gload might not be good enough to be the Phillies' main lefthanded bat off the bench. (David M Warren/Staff file photo)Read more

The second-guessers had it all wrong when they questioned whether Roy Halladay stayed in too long Tuesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In fact, it might have been the least educated second guess in the history of the game when you consider that Halladay was 52-0 when taking a lead into the ninth inning, he had thrown only 96 pitches through eight innings, and he had retired the side in order in the eighth by striking out all three batters.

Add in the fact that if Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had brought in lefty Antonio Bastardo to face lefthanded-hitting Lyle Overbay with one out and two on in the top of the ninth, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson would have countered with rookie Paul Goldschmidt and the case is closed. Goldschmidt, if you don't know, is the guy who launched a two-run homer off Cliff Lee in the second inning of Wednesday night's game at Citizens Bank Park.

If you want to second-guess Manuel about a ninth-inning move, it occurred in the bottom of the ninth, when he ordered a sacrifice bunt by Michael Martinez after Carlos Ruiz drew a leadoff walk. The bunt was successful and Ruiz moved to second, but then Manuel sent up Ross Gload to pinch-hit for Halladay.

On the surface, that doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz is a hard-throwing righthander, and other than backup catcher Brian Schneider, Gload is the only left-handed hitter on Manuel's bench.

The problem is that Gload isn't hitting much these days. He has a torn muscle in his right hip and is 0 for August and 3 for 25 since the end of June. The argument could be made that Manuel should not have wasted an out on a sacrifice bunt when his best option was to send up ailing Gload afterward.

Manuel talked before Wednesday's game about the long list of reasons a manager does or does not make a move, and rest assured that sometimes a manager makes a move to show the general manager that he needs help.

That probably wasn't Manuel's motivation for sending up Gload in the ninth, but the move nevertheless shined light on one of the few weaknesses the Phillies still have as they prepare for the postseason.

Anybody who does not think that's an important matter has obviously forgotten Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series, when Matt Stairs launched a 3-1 pitch from the Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton deep into the right-field bleachers at Dodger Stadium for one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history.

Who's the Phillies' lefthanded-hitting power threat off the bench right now? It certainly is not Gload.

"I feel the same as I did a month ago," Manuel said before Wednesday's game. "Any time we can upgrade the team . . . if that guy makes us better, then I hope we can get him."

A baseball source said Wednesday night that the Phillies have had internal discussions about finding another lefthanded bat off the bench, but it's a process that is easier said than done.

Before the trade deadline, the Phillies talked to the Colorado Rockies about Jason Giambi, and you know that Manuel would love to bring Minnesota slugger Jim Thome on board for the postseason. Neither of those moves is going to happen because the other National League teams with a shot at going to the World Series would block the Phillies' efforts to claim them. That's the price you pay for having the best record in baseball.

The team's options probably are limited to what they have at triple-A Lehigh Valley.

A year ago, the lefthanded power bat off the bench in the postseason ended up being Domonic Brown, who went hitless in three at-bats. Brown, demoted to the IronPigs when the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence at the trade deadline, could end up on the postseason roster again, but right now, he's in a messy slump at triple-A. Before Wednesday's game, he was 6 for 45 (.133) with 11 walks in his last 14 games.

Five days ago, the Phillies signed New Jersey native Jack Cust to a minor-league deal, and he's also now playing at Lehigh Valley. Like Stairs, the lefthanded-hitting Cust has an all-or-nothing power swing. He hit 84 home runs from 2007 through 2009, but whiffed 87 times in 270 plate appearances and hit only three home runs this season in Seattle. Cust is a career .188 pinch-hitter with zero home runs. Stairs, by contrast, was known for hitting pinch-hit home runs and finished with 23 in his career.

The baseball source said the Phillies have also discussed the possibility of calling upon Lehigh Valley's Brandon Moss as their left-handed power bat off the bench. Moss, signed as a minor-league free agent before the season, entered his game with the IronPigs Wednesday batting .266 with 20 home runs and 69 RBIs. He has big-league experience with Boston and Pittsburgh and impressive power.

Given Gload's sore hip, a postseason opportunity is probably awaiting one of the lefthanded hitters at Lehigh Valley.