Mackanin 'concerned' after Gomez's shaky 9th

Phillies closer locks down save, but allows two-run homer

Mackanin 'concerned' after Gomez's shaky 9th

CINCINNATI -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin reiterated Jeanmar Gomez's status as the Phillies' closer before Monday's 4-3 victory over the Reds on Opening Day at Great American Ball Park.

But then Gomez allowed a two-run home run to Scooter Gennett in the ninth inning. Gomez lost his job as the closer in the final week of the 2016 season, and the three pitchers that appeared before him Monday -- right-handers Joaquin Benoit, Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris -- have better overall stuff. They threw a combined three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.

"I'm concerned," Mackanin said about Gomez's shaky performance. "I had two guys up in the 'pen in that ninth inning [Joely Rodriguez and Pat Neshek]. He's just not getting the ball down the way he did when he was successful. I want to make sure that he gets opportunities, but at the same time, I don't want to let games slip away.

"He has to execute. Like I said, for me, he's earned the right to be the closer for right now. But he's got to get the ball down."

Mackanin laid out the rest of his bullpen's alignment before Opening Day. He has Neris as the setup man with Benoit, Ramos and Neshek interchangeable before the eighth.

Left-handers Adam Morgan and Rodriguez are not traditional left-handed specialists, so it is unlikely early either enters a game to face just one lefty. Of course, that could change during the season.

"I like what I saw from Benoit, from Neris. Ramos has the stuff to be a closer. Neshek I haven't seen enough of," Mackanin said. "But I certainly have options. I don't want to make too big of a deal out of it, but I owe it to the team to do what I think is best for the team."

Late-game defense

Mackanin has two players on his bench who could be used as late-inning defensive replacements. Outfielder Aaron Altherr and first baseman Brock Stassi are both above-average defenders, but Mackanin said early in the season he plans to let left fielder Howie Kendrick, right fielder Michael Saunders and first baseman Tommy Joseph play.

Stassi's leaping catch

"I've read a few things about Kendrick, that he needed to be defensed for," Mackanin said. "I don't see that. I thought he did a great job this spring. Saunders has been fine in right field.

"A guy like Stassi is an above-average first baseman. Down the road, if I feel that it's going to help us, I might put him in just because he's so good. But Tommy has held his own. I don't want to do it right away. I want to give Tommy a chance to show he needs to be or doesn't need to be defensed for."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.