ATLANTA -- This is why baseball people can be superstitious.
Before Monday's victory over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee had been answering a few questions about his pitching staff, when he mentioned how the team needs to find a way to get the ball to setup-man Chad Qualls and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Qualls had a 1.17 ERA in his first eight appearances, but a few hours later, he allowed a game-tying two-run home run in the eighth inning.
But that does not change the fact Papelbon and Qualls have been about the only two lock-down arms in the bullpen, though they saw some progress in the form of Antonio Bastardo, who tossed a scoreless inning Tuesday night in a 4-2 win over the Braves.
Left-hander Joe Savery has a 1.59 ERA in 5 2/3 innings, but the team has seen its share of struggles from Bastardo (4.15 ERA in 4 1/3 innings), Jose Contreras (7.36 ERA in 3 2/3 innings), David Herndon (4.70 ERA in 7 2/3 innings), Michael Schwimer (7.71 ERA in 2 1/3 innings) and Mike Stutes (6.35 ERA in 5 2/3 innings). Stutes and Herndon are on the disabled list.
Dubee lamented how they need their relievers to keep the game close even in losing situations. There have been times when the bullpen has turned a two- or three-run deficit into something larger, making a comeback nearly impossible.
"That's a concern," manager Charlie Manuel said, "but at the same time, those guys have to pitch for us to see what they can do, and we've got to have them get their work in to help us. We called them up. Of course we're going to use them. We have to use them, and we have to show confidence in them."
Bastardo proved to be one of the team's best relievers last season, but he has allowed 11 earned runs in 16 appearances since last September. His velocity has been down a bit, although it's improving. He also has lacked command, which was the case Monday, when he walked a batter.
"We've got to get him out there more," Manuel said. "We've got to get him sharp, whether it's one hitter, a full inning or two hitters. He's got to warm up, get him in the game and get him going. I think the same thing with Contreras, too. Those are two guys that we've got to start pitching more and making sure that we use them because both of them if we use them enough, that's what makes them good."
Phils nearing decision time on ailing Thome
ATLANTA -- It is a question Jim Thome found difficult to answer.
He injured his back Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, and has been unable to play since, including in a 4-2 win over the Braves on Tuesday. Manager Charlie Manuel has been short a man from his bench for three games, and it is unknown how much longer Thome will be unavailable.
At this point, would it benefit Thome to be placed on the 15-day disabled list to let his back heal and get desperately needed at-bats during a rehab stint in the Minor Leagues? Thome is 2-for-18, with 10 strikeouts this season. Manuel has said Thome needs at-bats to be productive offensively.
"This is about our team," Thome said. "It is. It will always be about that. I certainly don't want to put Charlie in an uncomfortable position every night not having a guy ready. I understand that part of the game, too. I think playing a long time, you understand that. But there's also the sense to get back as quick as we can."
Thome said his back is progressing "in a good way."
Said Manuel: "It's a day-to-day thing. We'll see how he feels. Also, the longer he sits there, sometimes I think he needs to go hit. Like when you sit there and you're not playing and not doing anything, and you're not getting at-bats when you are able to, it usually takes you a while to get going. I'll talk to Ruben [Amaro Jr., the Phillies' general manager] more than likely tonight. We'll see."
Sanches recalled to replace injured Herndon
ATLANTA -- Brian Sanches got a call early Tuesday morning that the Phillies needed him that night in Atlanta.
The Phillies placed right-hander David Herndon on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of inflammation in his right elbow. So Sanches, who had a 3.21 ERA in eight appearances with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, boarded a flight from Allentown, Pa., to Atlanta.
Yes, there are direct flights from Allentown to Atlanta.
Sanches is happy to be back in the big leagues. The Phillies assigned him to Triple-A during Spring Training. He has pitched well after a slow start.
"It was actually tough to get started mentally," he said. "Not because I didn't want to. It's kind of hard to explain. I guess you get so used to being up here. But once I was able to mentally get back into and adjust a few things mechanically everything started going really well. The last three or four outings I was throwing the ball a lot better."
Sanches made 30 appearances for the Phillies from 2006-07 before continuing his career in Washington and Florida.
"It doesn't seem like it's been that long since I put one on," he said of his Phillies uniform. "Time flies."
Since Freddy Galvis went 2-for-3 with a walk on April 20 in San Diego, he has just three hits in his last 27 at-bats for a .111 average.
"I think he's swinging too hard and that comes from trying too hard," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He needs to get back in there, and I think if he gets a hit, he'll be fine."
Manuel was asked if he might settle on a particular left fielder at some point.
"I think if some guy is playing the best, and he gets hot, he'll get the most playing time," he said. "But we've got quite a few candidates. At the same time, you start playing well, you start playing the way we want you to play, you can win that job."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.