For Manuel, Bullpen May Not Save Him
Philadelphia Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel did his best this spring to insulate himself from the blame for the team’s flawed bullpen. He told anyone who would listen that he needed the front office to get him another arm or two. It didn’t happen, and the Phillies’ bullpen blew the first two games of the season, part of a season-opening three-game sweep at the hands of the division rival Braves.
But just because Manuel called it ahead of time doesn’t mean he will escape the blame if the Phillies’ slide continues. GM Pat Gillick didn’t hire Manuel; he inherited him. And in what could be another telling sign, he hired former managers Jimy Williams and Davey Lopes as coaches this winter.
If you had Manuel in the first-manager-to-be-fired pool, you’re looking pretty good right now. K LOOKING BACK: Two years ago on Opening Day 2005, Terrmel Sledge hit the first home run in Washington Nationals history, a thought that was close to his heart as he put on his San Diego Padres uniform Tuesday in San Francisco on another Opening Day.
“I’ll never forget that,” Sledge said. “My [home run] ball is sitting in a place right next to Frank Robinson’s [Nationals] jersey — in Cooperstown. Someday I’d like to go see it.”
The Opening Day blast would be Sledge’s only homer in a Nationals uniform. A month into the season, he suffered a hamstring injury so severe it required major surgery, and Sledge said he had not fully recovered until July 2006 — by which point he had been traded twice.
However, he has found an opportunity with the Padres, who have made him their primary left fielder. At 30, he still has time to salvage a productive career, but it needs to start now.
“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time, going back years,” he said. “Give me 500 at-bats, and I think I can do a lot.”