BALTIMORE — Edubray Ramos had struck out Baltimore Orioles boppers Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo — on six pitches, no less — in a classic save situation Wednesday when Phillies manager Gabe Kapler signaled to the bullpen for embattled closer Hector Neris.
A pitching change? Seriously?
You've probably heard of "closer by committee." This is "Bullpen by Gabe," and it's the way things are going to be when the Phillies have a lead in the ninth inning.
When Kapler removed Neris from the full-time closer role last weekend, he said he would manage his bullpen based on the best possible matchups. And with a three-run lead against the Orioles, Kapler liked the way Ramos' slider played against the righthanded-hitting Schoop and Trumbo and preferred Neris' splitter against lefthanded-swinging Chris Davis.
"Had we left Ramos out there to finish the inning, we thought he would have done a great job," Kapler said. "But we liked Hector there because Hector's split, when it's on, is tremendous, as we saw today. One of the things we've maintained from spring training is we're going to put our players in the best positions to have success."
Kapler also saw it as an opportunity to begin rebuilding Neris' confidence.
Neris hadn't pitched since Friday when he blew a save by allowing back-to-back homers to Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores in a loss to the New York Mets. Given the chance to face Davis, he got a game-ending groundout to clinch a 4-1 victory.
"We know Ramos' slider is very effective against righthanded hitters — it's been true for over a year — so we give him that opportunity. That creates confidence," Kapler said. "He's going to walk out of there feeling like a million bucks. Guess who else is going to feel like a million bucks? Hector Neris. He just got a huge out for us.
"One of the ways we can instill confidence is by matching up our guys effectively."
That's "bullpen by Gabe." Everyone should probably get used to it.
After the game, the Phillies optioned righthander Mark Leiter Jr. to triple-A Lehigh Valley. A corresponding move will be made Thursday, although it likely will involve lefty reliever Adam Morgan, who will be eligible for reinstatement from the disabled list after missing 10 days with a back strain. Leiter was activated from the DL on Tuesday and had not yet pitched.
The Phillies are also facing a decision on reliever Victor Arano, who has recovered from a rotator cuff strain and could be activated any day. Arano also could be optioned to triple A without being exposed to waivers.