Notes: Manuel wants starters fresh

Notes: Manuel wants starters fresh

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies starting pitchers have turned in 15 quality starts in the previous 24 games and have pitched at least six innings in 22 of 25 games. The starters have thrown a quality start in 28 of the team's first 53 games.

Despite this seemingly solid stretch, Philadelphia's starters have compiled a 4.75 ERA, which puts them 14th out of the 16 National League teams. The relievers' combined ERA of 4.72 also ranks them third-worst.

By contrast, San Diego leads both areas with a 2.27 mark for the relievers and a 3.30 ERA for the starters.

"If our bullpen's weak then that puts a lot of strain on your starters," manager Charlie Manuel said. "If your starting pitching's weak, it puts a lot of strain on your bullpen. That's why I like to build your pitching from the back end forward."

The bullpen has been a sore spot for the Phillies this season, and has already taken two big hits with injuries to Tom Gordon and Brett Myers. Manuel's reluctance to use an inexperienced bullpen option in a crucial spot has led him to stick with his starters longer.

The starters have averaged 98 pitches an outing since May 22, and have thrown at least 100 pitches in 30 of the first 54 games.

Manuel wants to put a cap on his starters to keep them fresh.

"We need to put a limit on our pitchers to 105 to 120 pitches," Manuel said. "We'll be pitching our whole staff more than they ever pitched, or close to it."

Manuel would like to allow his relievers to ease this burden, but admitted that it's tough in key spots. Like it or not, there are reasons why he let Adam Eaton hit for himself May 8 in Arizona or let Freddy Garcia do the same on May 28.

"In order for the bullpen to get better, we've got to pitch them," Manuel said. "At the same time, I say to myself, 'We're trying to win the game.' It's a double-edged sword."

Fast track: Three weeks ago, Michael Zagurski pitched for the Class A Clearwater. Friday night, he faced a future Hall of Famer in Barry Bonds ... and got him out.

Continuing his rapid ascent from A ball to the Majors, with a brief stop at Double-A Reading, Zagurski relieved in the fourth inning of a 13-0 game, with the score 5-0 at the time. He hit rookie Fred Lewis and allowed a single to Mark Sweeney.

With Bonds up, Zagurski was forced to pitch to him, and he got him to fly to left. The problem was Ray Durham, who laced his second pitch for a two-run home run. Zagurski said the home run had nothing to do with a Bonds letdown.

"I made a bad pitch and he got a good swing on it," Zagurski said. "It wasn't a terrible pitch, just the wrong pitch."

While acknowledging a degree of awe with every day he spends with the big-league team, Zagurski said he can't take that on the mound with him.

"Once I get out there, it's kill or be killed," he said. "From that standpoint, I have to try and get that hitter out, no matter who he is."

Bobbing away: They're something of a rage in the Phillies clubhouse, with players squirreling them away in lockers.

Mostly though, the PECO Shane Victorino Hula Figurine is a convenient way for teammates to make fun of their starting right fielder.

"Whatever," Victorino said, in mock disgust, as an unboxed and broken one lay at his feet.

Victorino suggested that his teammates are simply jealous of his marketing tool, which features Victorino in a grass skirt giving the shaka (hang loose) sign. Increasing its popularity, a few were given to select Liberty cab drivers, to place them on their dashboards for lucky riders to gaze at its beauty.

"That's what's so funny about it," he said. "Everybody is making such a big thing over a figurine. It's an honor, but it's funny. It's different. At first, I was shaky, but then I saw it. It's pretty cool."

Victorino was also thrilled to hear that he's on actor Paul Rudd's ("Anchorman," "40-year-old Virgin," "Knocked Up") fantasy team. The actor was discussing his roster recently, and mentioned that he picked up Victorino for steals.

"I'll see what I can do," Victorino said.

Philling in: Manuel said Myers could start throwing early next week, possibly as early as Monday. ... Right-hander Francisco Rosario said he is fine a day after taking a ball off his left knee.

Coming up: Freddy Garcia is coming off his best outings of the season on Monday against the D-backs, but he took the loss in a 5-4 game. The right-hander achieved season highs in innings pitched (eight) and in strikeouts (nine). Garcia closed strong, fanning the last four batters and retiring his final six. But he received little run support, and a ninth-inning rally fell short.

Garcia will match up Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET with Giants phenom Tim Lincecum, who has posted a 2.17 ERA in his previous four outings.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.