Floyd, Manuel On Shorter Leashes

Sunday's game in Pittsburgh could have a lot of significance. Gavin Floyd makes his fifth start of the season and needs to show that he belongs in the Phillies' rotation. Meanwhile, the Phillies look to snap their three-game slide, and show that Charlie Manuel belongs in the dugout.

Let's point out right at the top that when the Phillies hired Charlie Manuel, I wasn't for or against it. Manuel was good enough to be given a chance and I was going to be patient, which is not one of my better virtues. Also, Gavin Floyd has been one of the young players that I most thought would succeed. When he was put in the starting rotation, I figured it was a good move.

I'm starting to waver - badly - on both ends.

First, on Manuel. It took him way too long to change the Phillies lineup and move Aaron Rowand out of the number two spot in the order. Now, he's juggling again because of the righty/lefty splits. Manuel - and many other managers - put too much emphasis on splits. By moving Aaron Rowand to the third spot in the order Saturday night, he was looking to "protect" Chase Utley. In all honesty, Rowand hits left-handers at a .304 pace, while Abreu (who would have been behind Utley) hits them at a .268 pace for a difference of .036. That .036 number represents just under four hits for every 100 at bats. But keep in mind that instead of having Rowand's .304 average against left-handers behind Ryan Howard, Manuel had David Bell behind Howard. While Bell hammers left-handed pitching, that combination was killing Howard earlier in the season.

The bottom line is that there is something to be said for players hitting in a comfortable spot and many times, the righty/lefty splits are overused.

Then, there are concerns about Manuel's use of the bullpen and other issues that have arisen during his reign. I've been patient, but when you look at this team, even though Charlie Manuel is a good baseball guy and an even better person, the time for a change could be coming.

As for Floyd, it's all about relaxing. Sal Fasano has been Floyd's designated catcher and has tried to get the young right-hander to relax. "If he had the confidence that I have in him, he'd be fine," said Fasano. Unfortunately, Floyd doesn't have that confidence and has put himself in tight spots by simply worrying too much. He's a talented pitcher, but he's blowing his opportunity. During spring training, he was awesome. He was the picture of cool, relaxed confidence, but he has lost that demeanor somewhere between Clearwater and Philadelphia.

The fact that Cole Hamels burned up the Norfolk Tides in his first start doesn't do much to give Floyd confidence. If anything, it's likely to add some fuel to the fire, especially if Floyd doesn't turn things around quickly. It was supposed to be Hamels and Floyd anchoring the rotation for years to come, but if things don't change quickly, it will be Hamels replacing Floyd by Memorial Day at the latest.

Since baseball is the way it is, a good outing by Floyd Sunday that leads the Phillies to a win would give both he and his manager a little more leash to work with. Without that, they may both feel some tightening around their necks.

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