CHICAGO -- Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg said Friday that one of the biggest areas of improvement for the team over the past couple of weeks has been the bullpen.
Since Sandberg took over as interim manager, Philadelphia has gone 8-6. And he said improved bullpen performance has been a key to that recent success.
"We've improved in a lot of ways," Sandberg said. "The bullpen has been one of the biggest things that has really come along the last two weeks."
The Phillies' bullpen has a 4.33 ERA on the season (last in the National League) entering Friday, but it is 3.94 in August. Two rookie relievers -- left-hander Jake Diekman and right-hander B.J. Rosenberg -- have been particularly impressive.
Diekman has tossed nine scoreless innings over his last nine appearances dating back to Aug. 11, allowing five hits with 14 strikeouts and one walk.
Rosenberg has held opponents scoreless in seven straight appearances since being recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Aug. 16. Opposing hitters are batting .130 (3-for-23) against him over that stretch.
Both Diekman and Rosenberg continued their hot streaks in Friday's 6-5 win. Diekman walked a batter, but didn't give up a hit in two-thirds of an inning, while Rosenberg won his first game of the season and second of his career after pitching a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts.
The Phillies' bullpen, which also included Zach Miner and Jonathan Papelbon, who earned his 23rd save, threw four scoreless innings.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz said it's nice to see the young arms performing well, and that the key for them has been getting more comfortable at the big league level.
"It's good to see [the recent success]," Ruiz said. "We have a lot of young guys in the bullpen right now, and they're learning about how to be here in the big leagues. It's fun to see that, because now they feel more comfortable and relaxed. I hope they continue to stay that way and finish [the season] strong."
Phils finalize deal with Cuban righty Gonzalez
CHICAGO -- The Phillies announced on Friday that they have signed 26-year-old Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a three-year, $12 million contract.
The agreement includes a vesting/club option for 2017, as well as a signing bonus and performance bonuses.
The Phillies initially agreed to a six-year, $48 million contract with Gonzalez on July 27, but the deal reportedly fell through because the club was concerned with the health of Gonzalez's right elbow. Gonzalez recently had bone spurs removed from his elbow.
Gonzalez pitched for the Cuban National Team in the World Cup in 2009 and '11, posting a 3-1 record and a 2.91 ERA across seven appearances (six starts). He struck out 36 batters in 34 innings and allowed 31 baserunners.
Gonzalez will report to the Phillies' Spring Training complex in Clearwater, Fla. Left-hander John Lannan has been placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Gonzalez on the 40-man roster.
"We are very pleased to have come to an agreement with Miguel," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "He is someone our scouts have followed for several years, and in our most recent observations of him, he showed tremendous stuff. We are hopeful he will pitch out of our starting rotation for 2014 and beyond."
Amaro added in a news conference that Gonzalez will not be called up to the Majors in September, but the GM is looking forward to getting Gonzalez started within the organization.
"It's important just to get him into our program," Amaro said. "If I see how he's doing, [I'll] see whether it makes some sense for him to throw some innings later on in winter ball."
Sandberg returns to Wrigley as Phils' interim manager
CHICAGO -- Ryne Sandberg entered the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field as a manager for the first time on Friday, and he said it was hard to find where to go. He had been to that side before as a rookie with the Phillies in 1981, but it's been awhile.
"[I was on this side] in 1981 as a September callup," Sandberg said before the Phillies made him a winner in his return, 6-5. "It's a little different view from this angle here looking out. I just needed to think of the right entrance to come in."
Sandberg said that while he wondered what it would be like to manage his first game at Wrigley Field, where he spent 15 seasons of his 16-year Hall of Fame career with the Cubs, it was still business as usual in terms of preparation.
"I was thinking about the lineup a little bit," Sandberg said about his thought process as he walked into the ballpark. "I pretty much had my managerial hat on … along with just kind of wondering what this would be like, not being in these shoes before, experiencing something like this."
Some of Sandberg's players noticed that he was excited for his Wrigley return.
"I think any baseball game is important for him," said third baseman Kevin Frandsen. "But just walking around and seeing his smile; this is where it happened for him.
"I'll be honest. I've been looking forward to this day since the beginning of the season. I think we'll truly get to see, in baseball terms, what true love is, from these fans here [for] what he meant to them."
"It means so much," Sandberg said of returning. "This was a place that was very comfortable for me as a player -- just watching and being a part of the transformation here with the fans and the people on the rooftops and the popularity of the club. It was a great place to be."
Brown leaves game with Achilles injury
CHICAGO -- Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown left Friday's game against the Cubs in the sixth inning due to soreness in his right Achilles.
Brown left Philadelphia's game against the D-backs on Aug. 24 with inflammation in the right Achilles, and returned to the lineup for Thursday's game against the Mets.
"It feels exactly the same way it did the first time," Brown said. "I'm probably going to feel it the rest of the year. I'm going to take my time and see where I'm at tomorrow when I come in."
• Rookie third baseman Cody Asche was not in the starting lineup for Friday's series opener against the Cubs. He is still day to day after a mild right hamstring strain that has sidelined him since Wednesday, but he hopes to be back in the lineup on Saturday.
• Rookie Darin Ruf has hit nine home runs in 103 at-bats this month. He is the first Phillies rookie to hit nine or more homers in a calendar month since Ryan Howard hit 10 in September 2005. Eleven of Ruf's 24 hits in August have been extra-base hits.
Ruf went 1-for-4 on Friday, but the hit was a single.
• Going into Friday's series opener with the Cubs, the Phillies were 11-19 (.367) in 30 games against NL Central opponents, the team's lowest winning percentage against any NL division this season. But since 2005, the Phillies have the best winning percentage of any NL team against the NL Central (.561, 199-155).