Madson staying put in Phillies bullpen

Madson staying put in bullpen

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Maybe the chance to start will come for Ryan Madson again, like he did 17 times in 2006. He'd welcome that opportunity.

It probably won't come this season, despite Madson's three solid innings to open Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Reds. In telling the excitable right-hander he was starting, manager Charlie Manuel offered a reminder of Madson's importance to the bullpen.

"He said, 'Don't get any ideas,'" Madson said. "I know they need me to bridge that gap from the starter to whoever is pitching after me, and I'm fine with that, but ..."

Madson said this without any trace of bitterness or disappointment, despite a wide-open race for the fifth-starter's job. His first priority remains to the team, and he understands that he remains an integral part of the bullpen.

He gives the Phillies plenty of flexibility in 2008, as he'll be expected to toss two innings on most nights, allowing for J.C. Romero and Tom Gordon to rest more often and to keep Brad Lidge in a one-inning-save role.

Though comfortable as a vital bullpen cog, Madson will never rule out the chance to return to the starting rotation.

"I'll never say no to that," he said.

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Manuel reiterated his contention regarding Madson's role after the 6-1 defeat in which he played his starting eight -- minus Shane Victorino -- for all nine innings, sending a message that he wants more from his offense before Opening Day.

"Reliever," Manuel said, asked repeatedly if Madson could figure into the starting rotation mix.

Madson stumbled in a starting role to open the 2006 season, compiling a 6.28 ERA in 17 starts and wound up back in the bullpen. That year, he relied on a fastball, changeup and curveball that he never felt comfortable throwing.

In the spring of 2007, Madson developed a slider/cutter, and it became an effective weapon. He said it was self taught, though he credits former farmhand Jim Crowell with showing him a grip.

"I played with it in '06 playing catch because my curve was so bad," Madson said. "I started using it in the spring of '07. I wish I had the pitch in '06, but I'm happy with where I'm at, because I know it's an important role."

"He's a multiple-inning guy for us and he plays a big role, anywhere from the sixth to the eighth inning," Manuel said. "He has to have a good season for us."

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