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Pitching struggles continue in defeat

Pitching struggles continue in defeat

PHILADELPHIA -- Chan Ho Park earned a job in the Phillies' rotation with a splendid Spring Training.

But has he earned the right to keep it?

"I'm not ready to say that Chan Ho Park is not going to get any more starts or anything like that," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said following Friday's 7-4 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. "I'm not ready to say that."

But Manuel is not ready to say that Park is his man, either. Park allowed eight hits, seven runs and six walks in just 4 2/3 innings against the Mets. He has an 8.57 ERA after five appearances, and is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA after four starts.

"At the same time, we'll make some adjustments on our pitching," Manuel added.

Park's performance in the rotation might be more tolerable, except Phillies starters are 4-8 with a 6.65 ERA this season, putting an enormous strain on the bullpen. And because Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton aren't going anywhere anytime soon, the obvious choice for change is Park.

"That's not my decision," Park said. "All I can do is try to be better. Better focus. Better games."

Park signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract in the offseason because Philadelphia thought he could provide bullpen depth. But the signing came with the caveat that Park wanted an opportunity to win the fifth starter's job in Spring Training.

Park went 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA in Grapefruit League action, walking two and striking out 25 in 21 1/3 innings, edging left-hander J.A. Happ for the spot.

Happ went to the bullpen. But a month into the season, Park is allowing a run per inning when he starts, and Happ is 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA in nine relief appearances.

"He's had a rough going," Manuel said of Park. "I think you have to show patience to your players, but I think our pitching definitely has to get better. And I think that we need to get it better. As we go along, we'll make adjustments and do the things we have to do to get it better. Our guys are going to get a chance. They've got to pitch. They've got to be winning pitchers."

Park put the Phillies in a five-run hole after three innings, but he pitched into the fifth inning because closer Brad Lidge was unavailable and because left-hander Jack Taschner arrived mid-game following the birth of his daughter.

"We had to get some work out of him," Manuel said.

After Philadelphia cut the deficit to two runs in the third, Park allowed two more runs in the fifth to make it 7-3.

The Phillies had a potential rally going in the sixth, with runners on first and second and one out, but a baserunning error helped it end prematurely.

Jimmy Rollins hit a smash to Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, but he threw wildly to third. Chris Coste, who reached third safely, took a few steps toward home plate, but determined that it made little sense to risk getting thrown out at home with Shane Victorino and Chase Utley coming up. But Greg Dobbs kept running to third, and Coste ultimately had to head for home, knowing he would be out at the plate.

"It was a mistake," Manuel said. "We messed up."

But the real damage had been done earlier.

The Phillies have said in recent days that it's too early to draw any conclusions about their pitching staff, although Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he will need to address the problems if they continue.

If the Phillies decide to make a change in the rotation, who are the options? Happ is the obvious choice. With Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Kyle Kendrick, Carlos Carrasco and Rodrigo Lopez are candidates.

"I'm not saying exactly what we're going to do with our team, because I don't know yet," Manuel said. "But we'll always be trying to get the best pitching out there we can get."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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