Big League Notes

The Phillies starters are off to an awesome start and we've got a look at some of the reasons why. Plus, news on Gavin Floyd, Vicente Padilla and others. PBN also takes a look at one of Charlie Manuel's moves that almost came back to bite him two days later.

The Phillies put the top of their rotation to a litmus test last weekend. Jon Lieber and Brett Myers responded by outdueling the Braves' top two pitchers in a pair of games that felt more like late-September showdowns than mid-April feelers.

Lieber and Myers each worked eight brilliant innings and got through them with more left in the tank. Lieber used just 75 pitches to cut through the Braves in Saturday's 2-1 win. If it were someone lesser than Billy Wagner prepared to close it and someone other than Atlanta's Chipper Jones leading off the ninth (Jones was 0-for-11 with 9 Ks against Wagner coming into the game), Lieber might have finished it himself.

Regardless, Lieber became the first three-game winner in the National League. Lieber, who topped John Smoltz on Saturday, has a 2.49 ERA and is averaging more than seven innings per outing.

For someone whose credentials as a number one pitcher were questioned after the Phillies signed him to be their ace this winter, Lieber certainly is pitching like a bona fide ace.

"He sets a good example for the young guys," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He trusts his stuff and goes out and gets ahead of hitters."

Myers obviously has been taking notes. He followed that performance with an even better one against Mike Hampton. Myers gave up no runs, no walks and four hits in eight innings. Myers got a no decision in the Phils' 2-1, 10-inning win, but he lowered his ERA to a stunning 0.44 through three starts.

Not bad for a guy who had the second-worst ERA among NL starters in 2004.

Was it the right move?

As mentioned, Lieber was only at the 75 pitch mark through eight innings Saturday. Manuel decided to go to Wagner, who had pitched the night before, to lock up the save. Wagner was also called on in Sunday's extra inning win and was unavailable for Monday night's game against the Mets.

Had Lieber finished out Saturday's game - and there's no guarantee that he would have been able to – Wagner would have been available Monday night. Instead, with Wolf over the 100 pitch count and the Mets having the tying run on-deck, Tim Worrell had to come on. Worrell surrendered a three-run homerun to Cliff Floyd to make it a 5-4 game. From there, Worrell (who has a 10.80 ERA this season) worked out of the jam, but didn't make it look easy.

Wagner's unavailability meant the difference in keeping Wolf out there with his pitch count around 90 coming into the ninth inning, when Lieber was lifted with his pitch count at 75. Of course, Wolf did have more breathing room, at least to start the inning, but that changed quickly.

Notes:

  • When manager Charlie Manuel announced Friday (April 15) afternoon that Gavin Floyd was going to move to the bullpen after his start against the Braves that evening, he insisted there wasn't anything Floyd could do, good or bad, to change the decision.

    "How Gavin pitches (Friday)," Manuel said, "has no effect on whether he's staying or going (to the minors)."

    Floyd certainly put that comment to the test. After stumping the Cardinals for seven innings a week ago, Floyd couldn't find the plate against the Braves on Friday. He allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings, was wild from the start and the Phillies were throttled 11-4.

    The big issue is that Floyd's curveball - usually his most trustworthy pitch - had completely left him. Even against the Cards the curve was erratic; that day he relied on his sinker as his money pitch.

    Can he be expected to fix that problem while at the same time adjusting to life in the bullpen?

    "The guy we saw in St. Louis has the ability to be a very good pitcher," Manuel said. "I just told him to keep his head up."

  • Vicente Padilla will return to the Phillies' rotation tonight (April 19). Padilla, who is returning from triceps tendinitis, will slip between Randy Wolf and Cory Lidle in the rotation. Lidle will get an extra day's rest out of the shuffle.
  • Pedro Liriano will pay the price for Padilla being activated. The Phillies decided to move Gavin Floyd to the bullpen rather than back to AAA and Liriano will be the odd man out, being optioned to Scranton. Liriano was 0-0, 7.71 in three games with the Phillies this season.
  • Jon Lieber has limited the 2-3-4 hitters in opposing lineups to a .161 (5-for-31) average in his three starts. Last season batters in those slots in the order hit .319 against Lieber.
  • David Bell is off to a rough start after missing much of spring training with a sprained back, but he is showing signs of pulling out of the slump. Bell came into Monday night's game hitting .174 this season, but raised it to an even .200 with a 2-for-4 night, including a two-run double.
  • The numbers game: 15 - The number of walks allowed by Phillies starting pitchers through 12 games and 74 2/3 innings.

    He said what? "He seemed uncomfortable with what (former pitching coach) Joe (Kerrigan) was preaching, but (new pitching coach Rich) Dubee seems to let Brett be Brett." - Billy Wagner, on Brett Myers' new found success.


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