Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Closing time for Gordon?

There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned freakout/team meeting to get things rolling for Charlie Manuel’s team. Currently riding a season-best three-game winning streak, the Phillies have gone from the worst record in the Majors to the current second-best winning streak in baseball.

Last season, as everyone recalls, Manuel wigged out in the dugout between innings of a game in Florida and the Phillies promptly won nine in a row and 13 of 14. At 7-11, the Phillies are one game behind where they were last season at this time.

So the Phillies – with the wins and hits finally rolling in and three games against the lowly Washington Nationals coming up – are on the way. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead, the question now is who is the closer? Does Tom Gordon hold onto the role by default or is it there for Brett Myers to snatch away? Before yesterday’s game Manuel didn’t really clear that up.

Or did he?

“It depends on how quick Brett (Myers) can come along," Manuel said. “Gordon is our closer and we're committed to him until Brett becomes better or whatever and we'll just have to see from there. Gordon still has good stuff. I think the fact he's gotten hit is the location of the pitches he's thrown.

“At the same time, we have to get Myers out there in a save situation to see how things go.”

As offered in a previous post, Gordon’s fastball still has its velocity but is struggling with the command with his curve. Plus, at 39, Gordon has a lot of miles on his arm over the last 19 seasons in the Majors. By all accounts Gordon should be able to handle the closer’s role for the foreseeable future though his success will depend on how often he’s used.

Gordon was used pretty heavily last season and responded with an All-Star season until coming up with a tired arm in August. He also missed some time during spring training to have his right arm checked out, which is nothing new. He missed the same amount of time during spring training of 2006 and bounced back fairly well.

Regardless, it appears as if Manuel is going to give Gordon every chance to hold onto the closer’s role. If he can’t do it, well, it appears as if there is a substitute waiting in for the call in the lower bullpen just beyond the center field fence.

“I don't know if it's a competition but let me put it this way I hope it's a good setting for both of them because then we can have a strong bullpen,” Manuel said.

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