PHILADELPHIA -- Going with an eight-man bullpen for much of the last two months has provided Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon the luxury of having multiple choices and the ability to keep that group from being overused as the season stretches toward late August.
But the flip side is getting everyone enough work to stay sharp, and McClendon has done a masterful job with that as well, as his bullpen had posted an American League-leading 2.43 ERA going into Tuesday's game against the Phillies.
In Monday's series opener, McClendon brought closer Fernando Rodney in to get the last out in the eighth even with his team trailing, 4-1, strictly to keep the veteran right-hander sharp.
"Rodney had been off four days and I just didn't want him to go five days without pitching," McClendon said. "The danger of that is bringing him in the eighth and then you come back and you don't have your closer, so we had to double switch to make sure he was still out there just in case we came back in that ballgame."
Rodney retired Chase Utley on a groundout to end that frame and now has pitched 51 innings this season in 53 appearances while posting a 2.29 ERA. His 35 saves are second in the AL to the Royals' Greg Holland.
McClendon said he doesn't like any of his relievers going more than four days without pitching in a game, but particularly with Rodney, whom he's worked with since his days as the bullpen coach with the Tigers in 2006.
"Command can become an issue with him from time to time," McClendon said. "And if he's not out there on a regular basis, you're asking him to close a game without pitching for five days, it could become an issue."
McClendon was the hitting coach his last seven seasons in Detroit, but the former utility player appears to have an excellent sense of how to work his pitching staff.
"He's been outstanding," said veteran lefty Joe Beimel, who has put up a 1.23 ERA in 43 appearances after not pitching in the Majors since 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. "The way I've been used has been very enjoyable. He's put me in the best situations to succeed and I think he's doing that with everybody."