ATLANTA — Corey Knebel and Joe Girardi spoke immediately after Tuesday night’s 6-5 loss to the Braves at Truist Park.
Knebel, Kyle Schwarber and Kyle Gibson spoke to Girardi again in his office ahead of Wednesday’s game.
“We’re on the same page,” Knebel said. “I mean, that’s his rule. That’s it. So early in the season there aren’t three days in a row for emergency services.”
Here’s what prompted those talks: Bryce Harper hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning on Tuesday to give the Phillies a one-run lead. Nick Nelson, who finished a scoreless eighth, returned in ninth. It was the first time in Nelson’s career that he had finished ninth by a margin of less than eight heats. The Phillies lost ten pitches later. After that, Girardi said Knebel, Seranthony Domínguez and Juerys Familia were unavailable. Knebel threw 23 on Sunday and nine on Monday. He told Girardi he could pitch Tuesday, but Girardi said no. He has a policy against pitching relievers for three consecutive days, especially early in the season. Girardi mentioned that Knebel’s fastball speed dropped to 94.1 mph Monday from a season average of 95.3 mph.
“I said, ‘Look, you threw a few pitches on Sunday. You threw a few pitches on Monday. I appreciate you wanting the ball, but we have a long year ahead of us,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to hurt you because if you hurt yourself closer then these people are hard to replace. I think this is Corey Knebel. If I offered him the ball seven days in a row, he would take the ball seven days in a row. But it’s what I do. There are too many helpers getting hurt. Way too many.”
But while Knebel said everyone is on the same page, he added: “We both agreed that’s my game. We’re gonna lose, it’s my game to lose That’s it. Don’t put that on Nellie. But I think we had a great conversation. Nelson dominates, so yes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s it.”
Girardi mentioned at his inaugural press conference with the Phillies in 2019 that he dislikes using pitchers for three consecutive days, citing their health and effectiveness. He said the actual price is in October.
In his last three seasons as Yankees manager, Girardi did not field a reliever for three straight days in 2015. Nine times in 2016 and seven times in 2017.
Girardi has only used a Phillies exonerator six times in three consecutive days since becoming manager. In the last three seasons it has happened 229 times in the big leagues, including 24 times this year. The Nationals (20), Red Sox (19), Royals (19), Giants (15), Dodgers (13), and Angels (13) are leading the past three seasons.
But is it tempting to change that policy on a night like Tuesday, given how important the games are and given he’s in the last year of his contract?
Girardi takes a lot of heat for it.
“Who cares if I take all the heat?” Said Girardi. “It’s my job.
“What happens when Corey Knebel goes to IL for 20 days? So why use it three days in a row? All of this is part of being a manager. You will be questioned all the time. I’m used to it. I’ve made it in some pretty big markets. I’m used to it. I’ve made it into a few playoffs. I’m used to it. I was asked if I could go to a three-man rotation in the World Series. It’s part of the job. It’s what everyone does, right? Talk radio wouldn’t have a voice if everyone didn’t manage and coach and doubt, but that’s what makes our sport great. Everyone has different ideas, right? I have my ideas, you have your ideas. It is what it is. everything you do You get questioned about the lineup, you get questioned about positioning, you get questioned about the rain, you get questioned about everything.”
Girardi said the front office never asked him about it, however.
“Look again at how many volunteers are on the IL,” he said. “Look how many guys had Tommy John last year or got hurt. We’ve been pretty lucky here, haven’t we? And you win in the long run. You don’t win in 40 games. You win over 162 games and the way you win is by keeping people sane because people are irreplaceable. Certain people are irreplaceable.”