Bullpen continues to be issue for Phillies

Bullpen continues to be issue for Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Joaquin Benoit wants to have a set role in the bullpen. The 39-year-old veteran reliever entered in the seventh inning of a tie game Wednesday and allowed five runs in 1/3 of an inning in an 11-6 loss to the Mariners.

Benoit has now pitched multiple times in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

"Right now I'm all over the place," Benoit said of his wide-ranging usage. "It's a little bit consistency, and not just the pitching staff but the people that run it, too.

"It's consistency in one spot," that Benoit says he is looking for.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin wants to be able to align his relievers heading into games, like Benoit spoke about, but inconsistent starting pitching has thwarted those plans.

"It does magnify the problems because what happens is I end up using relief pitchers in situations that I don't want to have to use them," Mackanin said. "If I bring in a long guy and he can't get through more than one inning, then I have to go to another guy. It snowballs. It's been snowballing."

It's not just Benoit. No one in the bullpen has a set role. Hector Neris has pitched eight times in the eighth and nine times in the ninth. Jeanmar Gomez has pitched largely in the final two innings. Pat Neshek has split time between the sixth and seventh. Four relievers have blown a save in the ninth inning.

"I believe if we have a set role, everybody will fall in place," Benoit said. "Right now, I think everyone is a different piece. Right now, I believe that it would be better if everybody knows what their role is and when you're going to contribute. If it's the sixth, well, that person will throw the sixth. If it's the ninth, that person is throwing the ninth."

For Mackanin, it's not that simple.

"Unfortunately, all these things are piling up to where I can't use them the way I'd like to use them right now," Mackanin said. "They've been asked to fill in certain roles that they're not used to."

Just seven times this season has Mackanin been able to ride a starter through the seventh inning. And even in those seven games, the Phillies held the lead just twice when handing the ball off to the bullpen.

The bullpen was supposed to be a strength for the 2017 Phillies. The organization went out and acquired veterans Neshek and Benoit to hold down the late innings and supplement the breakout work of Gomez and Neris last season.

Thirty-two games into the season and the mood has soured. Phillies relievers allowed eight runs Wednesday, tied for the most they've allowed in a game this season. Last time they allowed eight runs, they pitched 6 2/3 innings. On Wednesday they pitched just three.

Last season, the bullpen finished with the third-worst ERA in the Majors. That is improved this year despite their ERA jumping from 4.12 to 4.66 today.

"We'll get through it," Mackanin said. "We're better than this."

Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.