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Manuel applying own rules to bullpen

Manuel applying own rules to bullpen

DENVER -- There might not be a defined method to the madness that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has displayed throughout the early stages of this year's postseason. But with his club one win away from advancing to the National League Championship Series, there's certainly no reason to criticize the whatever-it-takes approach that Manuel has utilized with his pitching staff.

Joe Blanton worked more innings than any other Phillies pitcher this year, and through the first three games of this year's National League Division Series, the durable right-hander has solely been utilized as a versatile middle reliever, who has the ability to fill the long role.

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Because of the weather-induced postponement that erased Saturday's scheduled activities, Pedro Martinez went from being the projected Game 3 starter to just one of two Phillies pitchers who haven't been utilized during this year's playoffs.

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Phillies at a glance
2009 record: 93-69
2008 record: 92-70
NL East champs
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Information

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Madson: Back in business
Werth: Heart of the order
Rollins: Awaiting breakout
Focus: One game at a time
Manuel: Mix & match
Howard: Ready for lefties
Stairs: Shot reverberates
Manuel: New rules for 'pen
Blanton: Arm around team
Pedro: Return to spotlight
Ibanez: Eyes on prize
Rollins: '07 irrelevant
Lidge: Still an option
Lidge: Killer cutter
Roster: Mulling options
Ibanez: Perfect fit
Hamels: Path of the pros
Amaro: Bold decisions
Pedro: Elated to play part
Rollins: No more predictions
Hamels: Back in business
Pitching: Staff in flux
Manuel: Keeps 'em focused
Hamels: Aims for dominance
Lineup: Imperfect but solid
Lee: Ready for playoff debut
Howard: The evolution
Rollins: Excelling on defense
Rotation: Not just big two
Manuel: Steady as she goes
Rollins: Eyes on '09 drama
Howard: The 'Big Piece'
Lee: Lifting Phils' hopes

As for National League Rookie of the Year candidate J.A. Happ, he went from being a reliever in Game 2 to Game 3 starter, who was thankful that his early-inning struggles weren't too much for the Phillies to overcome during Sunday night's 6-5 win, which moved them one victory away from eliminating the Rockies from this best-of-five Series.

"I'm sure Joe Blanton wanted to start," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. "I'm sure Pedro Martinez wanted to start. That's what they were brought here to do. But in this situation, I think it's about throwing that 'I' out the window ... You've got to look at the big picture. Yeah, you want to be 'The Guy' or 'The Hero,' but you've got to find a way to win. That's what this team is all about."

Manuel certainly isn't the first manager to ever utilize some of his regular season starters in relief roles during the postseason. But while trying to account for the bullpen that provided him some problems during the regular season, he has seemingly provided more confusion than most other managers encounter in regard to playoff pitching plans.

Still, as this Series has progressed, the witty skipper, who likes to kid about his lack of intelligence, has certainly proven wise with each of his decisions. Through all of his tinkering, which was aided by Saturday's postponement, he finds himself with the opportunity to use Cliff Lee for Game 4 and Cole Hamels, if he needs a Game 5 starter, on regular rest.

"In the playoffs, everything is valid," Martinez said. "Everybody has to be ready to pitch at any time."

Manuel's willingness to think outside the box has affected the roles of many members of his pitching staff, not solely the starters-turned relievers.

When left-handed reliever Scott Eyre had to exit on Sunday night with a sprained right ankle, Manuel opted to bring in Ryan Madson, who hadn't yet started warming up in the frigid conditions that dipped into the sub-freezing marks after the first pitch was thrown.

With runners at the corners and nobody out, Manuel needed a strikeout threat and thus called upon Madson, who was given as many warmup pitches as necessary and then limited the damage to a sacrifice fly.

"It wasn't like I was playing hopscotch out there," Madson said. "I was ready to go in the game."

This is the mindset all of the Phillies relievers took during the final weeks of the regular season, when Manuel had to adjust for the fact that Brad Lidge hadn't provided enough confidence to keep him in the closer's role.

"We've got the guys out there that can handle it," Madson said. "They aren't the ones that say, 'I've got to pitch here' or 'I've got to pitch there.' You just go out there when your name is called."

Mark Bowman 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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