WASHINGTON -- Charlie Manuel just laughed when asked if he knew how many setup relievers the Phillies have used this year. The manager laughed again when asked who his eighth-inning guy is at the moment.
That's the kind of season it's been for the Phillies. They've lost 20 games when they were tied or had the lead after six innings, 15 when they were tied or had the lead after seven. That's hard evidence of a bullpen that's had some problems, and a big reason why right-hander Josh Lindblom found himself wearing a Phillies uniform Wednesday night at Nationals Park.
The 25-year-old Lindblom was acquired from the Dodgers, along with Minor League right-hander Ethan Martin, for Shane Victorino just before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. He said he doesn't care what role he's used in, but there's no doubt that the Phillies want to see if he can help them get the game to closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"I'm sure we're going to use him some in the eighth inning," Manuel said. "We'll use him in the seventh. We'll do some matching up. We'll start maneuvering our bullpen around and see if we can't get some guys experience, and also get the most out of them."
It didn't take long for the mixing, matching and maneuvering to start. In the eighth inning of Wednesday night's 3-2 win over the Nats, left-hander Antonio Bastardo came in to face Bryce Harper, a left-handed hitter who was leading off. After Harper was retired, Lindblom came in to face two right-handed hitters, pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse.
Zimmerman singled. Morse struck out. Then left-hander Jeremy Horst came in for Adam LaRoche; the inning ended when Zimmerman was thrown out trying to steal."Wherever the outs are needed," he said. "I did everything [for the Dodgers] from coming in early, long stuff, and pitching late in the game. So wherever I'm needed. I know I need to start over and work my way into whatever role is given to me."
Even after the Dodgers landed reliever Brandon League in a trade with Seattle, Lindblom didn't expect to be moved. After all, in 27 games as a rookie last season, he had a 2.73 ERA. He pitched in 48 games for Los Angeles this season, posting a 3.02 ERA and allowing fewer hits (42) than innings pitched (47 2/3). With less than two years of big league service, he's still not eligible for arbitration.
It wasn't until after he got Arizona's Jason Kubel to fly out to right, ending the top of the sixth Monday night at Dodger Stadium, that he began to suspect something might be up."I was supposed to go back out for a second inning and our clubbie came down and grabbed [Dodgers manager Don Mattingly]. And they said I had been pulled. So at that time I thought something might be happening. So it was just a matter of waiting for a phone call," he said.
"I had a lot of different emotions. Obviously sadness to leave those guys. Some of my best friends are over there and the Dodgers organization is the only one I've ever known. But a lot of excitement to come over here and be a part of the excitement of what they've done the last couple years and really build."
So he grabbed a red-eye flight, landed in Washington at 6:40 a.m. ET, grabbed a few hours sleep at the hotel and headed for Nationals Park.
Lindblom throws a fastball, curve, slider and changeup and said his approach is to challenge hitters."Just filling up the strike zone and attacking them," he said. "Sometimes that's smart. Sometimes I get bullheaded and make bad pitches. Obviously, the [nine] home runs I've given up this year aren't ideal. But that's part of baseball."
Lindblom was drafted by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, just behind first-rounder Martin. The two pitchers are good friends and former Minor League teammates. Lindblom offered this scouting report:
"Ethan's got a great arm. Last year when we were together [at Double-A Chattanooga] he was anywhere between 92 and 96, 97 [mph]. Has struggled with command a little bit at times but this year I know he's done really well with that. A couple mechanical fixes. He had a really good curveball. He was starting this year and made the All-Star team at Double-A. Great arm, great kid, hard worker. I think he can start or relieve."
Until he arrives, though, the Phillies will be watching closely to see if Lindblom can help correct what has been one of the team's most glaring problems during this disappointing season.
"I always took the approach of just whenever I'm slated, just to come in and take advantage of that role. Obviously, Papelbon is the closer. It really doesn't matter to me. I just want to win. We kind of bounced around in L.A., where guys pitched. In the course of a baseball game, certain situations arise where you need to mix and match, get guys out. And that's the important thing," he said.
"Throughout the course of the game there are 27 outs and I think that when you put too much emphasis on one out you just kind of make the game harder. Every out's big, whether it's in the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth. It doesn't matter. The expectation is always to perform well, no matter where you are or what team you're on. Just make a contribution and help the team win in whatever role that is."
Still, while Manuel may not know exactly how many setup relievers he's tried this season, it's a good bet that Lindblom will get a chance to show what he can do in that role before the year is over.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.