Joaquin Benoit seemed critical Wednesday about how the bullpen is being handled. What do you think about the bullpen's struggles?
-- Chelsea D., Havertown, Pa.
Benoit's comments got a lot of attention, and I understand why. But here is the funny thing: Benoit pretty much echoed everything that Pete Mackanin has said recently. Mackanin has said repeatedly that he thinks the bullpen will improve once pitchers have consistent roles. But that has not happened, partly because the starting pitching has been so inconsistent. The Phillies have just 13 quality starts, which is tied for 22nd in the Major Leagues. Their starters have pitched 6 1/3 innings or more just nine times. That has forced Mackanin to go to his bullpen more than he prefers, making some relievers unavailable some nights. And that makes Mackanin use his pitchers in different innings from game to game.
It has not helped that no one has locked down the closer's job; Jeanmar Gomez and Benoit got the first two cracks at it. Hector Neris is closing games for the moment, and I think he should remain there. And while I have talked to plenty of relievers over the years who say they prefer to know their role in the bullpen, some also say privately how they want no part of closing because they are not comfortable with it.
Of course, at some point, the pitchers need to do the job, even when it is uncomfortable. There must be some accountability there, too.
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What do you want to see in the next month or so?
-- Gennaro C., Fort Myers, Fla.
People get too worked up about a player's performance in the first month, whether it is good or bad, forgetting that it is a six-month season. So I want to see if Aaron Altherr can maintain his incredible performance at the plate, just like I want to see if Tommy Joseph (.476 OPS in April vs. 1.357 OPS in May) and Cameron Rupp (.736 OPS in April vs. 1.098 OPS in May) can continue their recently improved offensive performances. I want to see if Neris fares better as the closer and if Maikel Franco can get on track.
Certainly, I'm curious to see how the top prospects fare at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Like Altherr, I want to see if Rhys Hoskins can keep up his incredible play. J.P. Crawford has been reaching base more regularly recently, but he is not hitting for power. Dylan Cozens got off to a bad start, but he has hit .353 with a 1.062 OPS this month. That is encouraging.
I'm thinking about taking the kids to Citizens Bank Park this summer. Give me your top three food recommendations.
-- Kevin C., Philadelphia
First, let me say that Citizens Bank Park is one of the best food ballparks in the big leagues. Personally, I feel Citi Field in New York and AT&T Park in San Francisco are the best, but CBP is near the top.
If I could pick my top three things to eat at the Bank, they would be:
1. Federal Donuts fried chicken sandwich and donuts
2. Tony Luke's roast pork
3. Delco's cheesesteaks
I enjoyed Andrew Zimmern's Korean fried pork belly sandwich, but I can't seem to find it on the menu at Harry the K's this year. Too bad.