For Manuel, Bullpen May Not Save Him

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports -

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.”

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