Confidence?

In the first game of the season there were already signs that Charlie Manuel didn't have any faith in his bullpen. Manuel has said all of the right things, but there really isn't much for him to have faith in.

Charlie Manuel said one 10th-inning homer in the season opener won't shatter his confidence in the Phillies' newly appointed setup man, Ryan Madson.

But an 11th-inning homer in the second game ...

While general manager Pat Gillick explored options to improve the bullpen and came up with Francisco Rosario from the Toronto Blue Jays, Manuel may have to explore his options, too. The manager said right-hander Jon Lieber may be suited for a late-inning relief role once he recovers from a strained muscle in his right side.

Lieber, an 11-year veteran starter, will begin a rehab assignment Friday at Class A Clearwater.

"I look at Lieber as a guy with kind of a quick-step motion, and he has real good arm speed," Manuel said. "The downside is he's never really pitched out of the bullpen. But I think Lieber's got the experience to pitch in the seventh and eighth inning."

Lieber, disgruntled when the Phillies put him in the bullpen two weeks ago, was injured while swinging a bat March 23. He surrendered three runs in three innings of an extended spring training game Tuesday at Clearwater, but the Phillies received positive reports on his health.

Already on opening day, the message was clear: Charlie Manuel doesn't trust his bullpen.

With the Phillies leading 3-2 in the seventh inning of Monday's season opener against the Braves, the manager opted not to pinch-hit for starter Brett Myers, even though Myers had thrown 96 pitches, more than in any of his spring training starts.

And when Myers reached base with a leadoff walk, Manuel didn't pinch-run with speedy outfielder Michael Bourn and get setup man Ryan Madson warm in the bullpen.

Myers opened the eighth inning by fanning pinch hitter Craig Wilson, but Kelly Johnson's flyball to deep center field on a meaty fastball was the first sign he was tiring. One batter later, Edgar Renteria ripped Myers' 106th pitch, an 0-and-2 fastball, for a game-tying home run.

Madson entered in the 10th inning (after closer Tom Gordon survived a white-knuckle, bases-loaded jam in the ninth) and gave up Renteria's game-winning, two-run blast on an elevated slider that couldn't have inspired Manuel's confidence in him.

"We've been looking for more consistency in the bullpen," Manuel said later. "That's what we're still looking for."

If the Phillies don't find it, Manuel will have no choice but to use Madson and fellow right-handers Geoff Geary and Antonio Alfonseca to safeguard leads in the late innings.

"I know the guys that are in the bullpen," Madson said. "I know what we can do. Hopefully, we can just prove everybody wrong."

Maybe the answer is to change who gets the opportunities. Clay Condrey threw two perfect innings Wednesday, striking out five of the six hitters that he faced. Rookie joe Bisenius pitched 1.1 innings Wednesday and didn't surrender a run, but did give up two hits and a walk. In spring training, Bisenius was impressive and may deserve more consideration when it comes to deciding who gets the call in key spots. Whether or not Rosario can fill any prominent role for the Phillies remains to be seen, but they were impressed by him when they scouted him this spring.

Whatever the answer, there is a definite question mark in the Phillies bullpen and it remains to be seen just how the Phillies provide that answer.


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