Ryne Sandberg Makes Questionable Decisions in Philadelphia Phillies' Loss

By John Rader
Ryne Sandberg
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Just one day after opening the season with a 14-run outburst, Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg completely changed the starting lineup and they failed to produce. Sandberg adjusted the lineup in order to match up better against a left-handed pitcher.

Here is the opening day lineup:

Ben Revere CF

Jimmy Rollins SS

Chase Utley 2B

Ryan Howard 1B

Marlon Byrd RF

Dominic Brown DH

Carlos Ruiz C

Cody Asche 3B

Tony Gwynn Jr. LF

Yesterday’s lineup:

Ben Revere CF

Jimmy Rollins SS

Chase Utley DH

Marlon Byrd RF

Ryan Howard 1B

Carlos Ruiz C

John Mayberry Jr. LF

Jayson Nix 3B

Cesar Hernandez 2B

The first difference is Utley taking a day off in the field and just being used as DH. There’s no real problem here other than the fact that it is the second day of the regular season and they have a day off coming Thursday. Hernandez, who Sandberg placed at second base, played a solid game and contributed two hits.

The next difference is moving Howard out of the cleanup position to fifth in the lineup, the first time he has hit there since 2008. I have no problem with this move. Splitting up two lefties in the middle of the order is rarely a bad thing and Byrd can handle himself in a power position. He went 2-for-3 and drew a walk.

Ruiz moved up in the order, but that is simply because of the lack of pop and experience of the bottom three batters in the lineup. He’s proven in the past he can hit from any position in the lineup and still be a productive player.

Then there was the decision to sit Brown in favor of Mayberry, a very puzzling choice by Sandberg. Brown was the most lethal offensive threat for the Phillies a season ago, and although he struggled against left-handed pitching at times, he needs to get his work in and be an everyday player.

It is interesting to note that Brown was the DH on Monday and left out of the lineup completely on Tuesday. Brown had his issues in the outfield at times last season, but you have to wonder if Sandberg is unhappy with him and will continue to leave him out.

Asche went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI on opening day, so how was he rewarded Tuesday? A nice, warm seat on the bench. Again, Sandberg decided to go with the matchup and played the right-handed Nix instead. Nix went 1-for-4 and struck out twice.

Baseball is of course a team sport, and in order to be successful, each player must buy into their role and compete day in and day out, doing whatever the coaches ask of them. Yes the Phillies have played just two games, but there has to be some confusion as to what each player’s role is with the team.

Are Mayberry and Nix really going to start every time the Phillies face a right-handed pitcher? Is Brown going to lose substantial time because Sandberg doesn’t trust him in the field?

Then there was the debacle with Sandberg’s decision to use Mario Hollands in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game last night. It’s one thing to have confidence in your players to perform, but it’s another thing to put a relief pitcher in a tie game, on the road, for his first major league appearance ever.

No pressure, Hollands; just don’t blow it or we lose. Oh yeah, and you have to face the top of the lineup which includes Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre. Well, a leadoff walk, sacrifice bunt and walk to Fielder later and Hollands now can say he has major league experience, a loss and no confidence.

If the Phillies have any prayer of making the playoffs this season, they have to play every game like a must win. That goes for the manager as well. It is understood that juggling an injury-prone group of veterans will require some rest days, but it is the second day of the season.

It’s hard to believe that in a game at the end of September, facing a lefty in a must-win to get into the playoffs that Sandberg would use the same lineup he did last night or that he would put a rookie with no major league experience in to hold a tie game in the ninth.

John Rader covers the Phillies for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jcrader, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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