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September 10, 2016

Rodriguez, among latest call-ups, will 'audition' for left-hander role in 'pen

WASHINGTON – When the phone rang at her home in the Dominican Republic at 3 a.m., Joely Rodriguezs mother, Claribol, woke up with a start. She was frightened, as any parent would be, that her child was calling home in the middle of the night.

But the conversation between mother and son quickly took a much more joyous tone.

After a long night that began with a near-two hour rain delay in Scranton for what would be the final game of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs season, a game that wouldn't end until close to 12:30 a.m., the Phillies Triple-A affiliate returned home to Allentown. IronPigs manager Dave Brundage called a few players into his office, including Rodriguez.

“I didn’t know he was going to have that surprise,” said Rodriguez, the 24-year-old left-hander the Phillies acquired from Pittsburgh for Antonio Bastardo in December of 2014. “So when he said that I got excited and happy, because it’s a new opportunity.”

And so even know it was late enough that almost every bar in town was closed, he had to call his mom.

“She said, ‘Why are you calling me at that time, it’s too late,’” Rodriguez recalled 12 hours later, as he stood in a big league clubhouse of the first time. “(She) thought there was a problem or something. She was scared. But I needed to call her.”

Rodriguez was among the second wave of September call-ups arrived into the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park shortly before 4 p.m. on Saturday. Fellow pitchers Phil Klein and Luis Garcia were also added to the Phillies bullpen, while outfielder Cody Asche returned from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, too.

Rodriguez and Patrick Schuster are the lone left-handers in the bullpen as the Phillies use the season’s final two weeks to audition a couple of arms that could be candidates to fill what’s been a sore spot in the ‘pen throughout the season. After having Bastardo and Jake Diekman for most of the last half dozen years, the Phillies never found a consistent left-hander to use in their bullpen this season and went the final two weeks of August without a lefty in their relief corps.

“We’re auditioning,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “We need a lefthander. See what he can do. I guess he’s been throwing pretty good.”

Rodriguez had a 6.19 ERA in 32 games between Triple-A and Double-A in 2015, his first year in the Phillies organization. He started the year in the IronPigs rotation but was demoted after two months to Double-A to pitch out of the bullpen.

Rodriguez appeared to embrace the relief role from the get-go in 2016. He went 7-0 with a 2.35 ERA in 53 games, striking out 69 while walking 23 in 76 2/3 innings.

“This year, I put it in my mind that I was going to compete,” Rodriguez said. “I just got my confidence back from a couple of years ago. I don’t know, I just throw the ball to get outs, to complete innings, I just do it. My confidence helps, just in being aggressive and everything. Everything is easier when you’re confident.”

 • Like Rodriguez, Garcia and Klein will join the collection of arms in the bullpen. Klein, who was 5-1 with a 1.52 ERA in 14 games (10 starts) in Allentown, could be shifted into a starting role if the Phillies decide to shut down Jake Thompson at some point, although Mackanin said there was no such plan for that to take place at the moment.

Asche, meanwhile, will be added to the collection of players vying for playing time in the outfield. Mackanin said deciding who to start on a day-to-day basis is a bit of a “coin-toss,” but that he values the defense Peter Bourjos has brought all season.

 • Maikel Franco (right thumb) was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game. Mackanin said Franco was available to pinch hit on Saturday, although it’s possible the team will give him off the rest of the weekend to let his hand heal.

 • Mackanin said the Phillies are likely to add two more players when Double-A Reading’s season comes to an end. The best guesses on those two players? Catcher Jorge Alfaro, who homered twice in a four-hit game in Reading on Friday night, and dynamic outfield prospect Roman Quinn.

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