Phils remain confident in Madson as closer
Right-hander blew first save in four chances Tuesday
ATLANTA -- Phillies reliever Ryan Madson spent much of his Wednesday afternoon in front of a laptop inside the visitors' clubhouse at Turner Field.
Madson studied video from Tuesday's struggles in a 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Braves, when he blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning. He also said he looked at past pitching performances to see if he could find a solution to his problems.
"I know what I'm doing wrong," Madson said confidently. "I just don't want to say."
Madson is 1-1 with a 9.82 ERA in his past 10 regular-season appearances against the Braves, who also scored seven runs against him in three innings in three Grapefruit League appearances this March.
"Pitch selection," Madson said.
Like maybe the Braves have caught on to something?
"Yeah, exactly," Madson said.
Madson blew his first save in four opportunities Tuesday night. The blown save might not be so scrutinized, except Brad Lidge and Madson blew a combined 17 saves last season.
Madson is 29-21 with a 3.27 ERA in 363 relief appearances, but is 4-7 with a 9.54 ERA in 38 save opportunities in his career. Of course, those numbers are misleading because 16 of those appearances came earlier in non-closing situations -- meaning he earned a blown save pitching anywhere from the sixth to eighth innings. In 22 save opportunities when Madson pitched as the closer, he has a 4.30 ERA and 17 saves.
That still is more than an earned run higher per game than Madson's career ERA as a reliever. It also is a 77.3 save completion percentage.
To put that save percentage into perspective, the top five career leaders in saves (Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, John Franco and Dennis Eckersley) converted at least 80.8 percent of their saves. Rivera leads the pack with an 89.5 percentage.
"I think the ninth inning is a different beast," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "He's under control some games, and he's not in control some games. It's a different beast. That's why the guys who can do it on a regular basis, year in and year out, are special. Those are special guys. It takes some guys longer to get over that hump. Some never get over the hump. Some are more comfortable in the seventh and eighth for whatever reason."
What kind of guy is Madson?
"I think he has plenty of stuff to do it," Dubee said. "Absolutely. Can he do it on a regular basis? I'm not sure yet, because he hasn't gotten it on a regular basis. I think the ability is there. Absolutely."
"Ryan Madson, he's our closer," manager Charlie Manuel said. "If we get in a save situation tonight, more than likely, he's going to be there. He's my guy. Just because they hit you one night, it doesn't mean they'll hit you two nights."
Polanco leaves with bruised left elbow
ATLANTA -- Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco bruised his left elbow Wednesday night against the Braves at Turner Field, but said he does not expect to miss much time.
Atlanta right-hander Tim Hudson hit Polanco with a pitch in the first inning. Polanco remained in the game until Wilson Valdez pinch-hit for him in the seventh. Polanco said X-rays revealed no fracture.
"It's stiff now; weak, sore," Polanco said.
Polanco said he will not know if he can play in Thursday night's series finale until he arrives at the ballpark.
"It might be a day," Polanco said.
But one game missed is better than two or three weeks missed, right?
"Of course, without a doubt," Polanco said. "But zero days is better than one."
Sinker helps Kendrick find success
ATLANTA -- One reason Phillies righty Kyle Kendrick enjoyed success Tuesday -- he threw eight scoreless innings after carrying a 17.47 ERA after his first two starts -- is that he threw his sinker more often.
Fewer than half his pitches were sinkers in Kendrick's first two starts. Pitching coach Rich Dubee told Kendrick he needed to throw his sinker more, which would set up his cutter and changeup. It seemed to have worked. Kendrick threw 108 pitches. He threw just 12 changeups and 22 cutters. The rest were sinkers.
Happ to throw bullpen session Thursday
ATLANTA -- Left-hander J.A. Happ, who the Phillies skipped in the rotation because of a strained flexor pronator tendon in his left arm, will throw a bullpen session Thursday. If it goes well, he could start Saturday.
But if it doesn't go well, Happ could be headed to the disabled list.
"We'll take a real close look at him," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "[We'll] see what type of effort there is. See if there's any wincing, if any. Facial expressions, if any. [And his] command."
Rollins won't be activated when eligible
ATLANTA -- Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins took some swings during batting practice Wednesday, but he will not be ready to rejoin the team April 28 in San Francisco, the first day he is eligible to be activated.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.