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April 09, 2016

Phillies Notes: Bullpen reinforcements rusty; Ruf to outfield 'in next few days'

NEW YORK – For the second straight day, and just four games into the season, Pete Mackanin was asked what he planned on doing about his undependable collection of arms in the bullpen.

The bullpen blew the first two games of the season, let the third game get out of hand, and took a close game in New York and turned it into a near-rout.

The Phils relief corps has a 12.66 ERA, which is, of course, the worst in baseball. Opposing hitters have a .474 OBP against them. In the season’s first four games, their relievers have entered appearances inheriting a total 12 runners; nine of those runners have scored.

It’s been ugly, but, there’s no much Mackanin or the Phillies front office feels like they can do, in part, due to Mother Nature.

The Phillies Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, do not play today. They do not play tomorrow. They won’t play again until Monday.

Inclement weather in Syracuse (who plans on opening a baseball season in Syracuse the first week of April!) has limited the Pigs to a pair of games in a doubleheader yesterday.

So, how did the possible, major league bullpen reinforcements do in those two games?

     • In Game 1, Edward Mujica entered in the sixth inning with the Pigs trailing 2-1. When the inning was over, the Pigs trailed 5-1. Mujica allowed a walk or a hit to five of the seven batters he faced and was charged with three earned runs.

     • In Game 2, Luis Garcia came in relief of Adam Morgan (who had a very encouraging first Triple-A start of 2016). Garcia faced three batters. Garcia walked all three batters. He threw 12 of his 16 pitches out of the strike zone.

     • Andrew Bailey entered in relief of Garcia. The good news: he struck out two of the four batters he faced. The bad news:    his wild pitch brought home the game-winning run.

Does Bailey have a chance to be in the Phillies ‘pen at Citizens Bank Park for the team’s upcoming 10-game homestand. Sure, there’s a chance. But they’d probably like to see Bailey and the others in the Pigs pen get a little bit more work first.

“We don't know who's pitching well down there,” Mackanin said. “It's going to take a little bit of time. But I am not going to wait overly long, especially since we have flexibility going back and forth (with relievers on minor league contracts, or with minor league options). Give somebody else a shot.”

Ruf Experiment

Darin Ruf, who has seen his name in the lineup just one time through the team’s first five games, could get into the lineup at Citizens Bank Park even with Ryan Howard at first base. Mackanin has asked Ruf to begin to take pregame work in the outfield.

Ruf wasn’t able to get those reps on Saturday, when batting practice was rained out at Citi Field. But Mackanin said he still won’t hesitate to stick Ruf in left field “in the next few days,” despite the fact that the converted first baseman hasn’t had any work in the outfield since last summer.

“He's played out there in left,” Mackanin said. “It’s not like he's never played there.”

But it also doesn’t sound like Mackanin plans to run Ruf out to left field every game, either. Ruf, who is platooning at first base with Ryan Howard this season, could simply be worked into a corner outfield mix that’s included Peter Bourjos, Cedric Hunter, Tyler Goeddel, and Emmanuel Burris.

“If I don't see improvement, then I am going to be forced to do it,” said Mackanin, who has received two extra-base hits from his less-than-productive outfield four games into the season. “If I can put him in the outfield for seven innings and then defense for him late in the game with a lead, I will do that. … I don't want to discourage or show a lack of confidence with Hunter and Bourjos or Goeddel right now. I don't want to give them a short sample of 15 at-bats and then say you've got to make a change. I don't want to do that because sometimes guys get off slow. I game with two or three hits in it brings you right back to where you want to be. Confidence is a big factor.”

PHIL-INS: San Diego right-hander Andrew Cashner (1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two career games at Citizens Bank Park) will start opposite Aaron Nola in Monday’s home opener in South Philly. … Mackanin shifted his middle of the lineup hitters down on Saturday night – Odubel Herrera hitting third, Maikel Franco in the cleanup spot, and Ryan Howard hitting fifth – in part because he said Cesar Hernandez “prefers to hit second.” Freddy Galvis (career .281 OBP) was in the leadoff spot for the third straight game. Hernandez, meanwhile, had a team-high 40 walks last season and was 19-of-24 in stolen base attempts. … The Phillies entered Saturday night was one of three winless teams in baseball, with the Twins and Braves. Did you know: the worst beginning to a Phillies season occurred in the franchise’s inaugural season, in 1883, when they lost each of their first eight games.