Friday, May 28, 2010
Manuel rests Werth, tweaks lineup
MIAMI -- In the midst of a five-game slide, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made a pair of lineup changes, looking for a spark.
Jayson Werth wasn't in the starting lineup, with Ross Gload getting the call in right field and Raul Ibanez batting fifth -- Werth's usual spot -- for the first time this season. Third baseman Placido Polanco, who has battled a sore left elbow in recent weeks, also wasn't in the lineup, with Greg Dobbs making just his sixth start of the season there.
"Werth, you know what? He's starting to really look like he's jumping out, really trying, press a little bit," Manuel said. "I want him to sit down, relax, go up and slow the game down, slow down."
That's the message Manuel was giving plenty of guys on Friday. The Phillies came into the weekend with a 1½-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East. With a 26-20 record, they're exactly where they were after 46 games last season -- and two games ahead of their pace set in 2008, when they won the World Series.
All is not lost, not by a long shot, Manuel insisted.
"You've got to stay positive, man," he said.
The two-time defending NL champions came into Friday night's opener of a weekend series against Florida having been outscored 29-3 in their last five games, all losses -- and the three runs came in the ninth inning of a blowout against Boston on Sunday.
Against the rival Mets in a three-game series Tuesday through Thursday, the Phillies were outscored 16-0.
That was the first time, according to STATS LLC, that a team had been shut out for an entire three-game set since 2004, and the Phillies said Friday that it was just the second time in the last 97 years that a first-place team had gone 0-fer in a series of more than two games.
In the fourth inning against the Marlins, the Phillies -- finally -- got on the scoreboard.
Ibanez's liner to center field scooted past Cameron Maybin for an easy triple, Ryan Howard scored from first base and the Phillies had their first run after going scoreless in their previous 30 innings, along with 49 of their last 50.
It also ensured the Phillies wouldn't become the first team since the 1992 Chicago Cubs to be shut out in four straight games.
The Marlins weren't thrilled to see Philadelphia arrive amid such a slide. After all, there's a sense that it's only a matter of time for a team that scored an NL-best 820 runs last season finds its groove again.
"This is a [messed] up game," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said, acknowledging he never would have expected a team like the Phillies to get into such a fast funk.
So far, the Phils have tried everything to snap out of it, including a meeting between Manuel and players, a players-only meeting, even Werth shaving his beard.
On Friday, Manuel said the Phillies weren't having any more meetings. Business as usual, the manager insisted.
"Our guys, our main guys, don't get down," Manuel said. "That's good. That's a good sign. I mean, they get mad. They don't get down. That's a good sign."
Maybe the Phillies are taking a cue from their manager on that front.
For nearly 30 minutes, Manuel sat in the third-base dugout Friday afternoon, sipping from a paper cup and doing plenty of laughing. Later, on the field for batting practice, the Phillies were loose and upbeat, a few guys stopping to autograph baseballs for fans who started arriving 90 minutes before the first pitch.
"We know it's not going to be like this all season," Werth said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.