Pat Gillick is in charge while Phillies president David Montgomery takes a leave of absence to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery, but that does not mean changes are coming to the organization. In fact, Amaro said, it will be business as usual.
“Pat Gillick will be in (Montgomery’s) stead on an interim basis,” Amaro said he told players at Citi Field. “I’m the GM. That’s not going to change. Ryno’s the manager. That’s not going to change. And we’ll go about our business status quo. I’ll report to Pat. Ryne (Sandberg) will report to me. And this is merely on an interim basis.”
Amaro was very emphatic that his role as general manager and Sandberg’s role as manager are not going to change. But there is reason for that. Sources said Gillick has spoken to multiple people on the baseball operations staff since he assumed his new role and assured them they can go about their business without fear of change.
Sandberg confirmed he spoke yesterday with Gillick.
“Everything is status quo, yes,” Sandberg said about the conversation.
So no changes to anything regarding baseball operations?
“There’s no change,” Amaro said.
Even given the fact Gillick has such an extensive baseball background? He was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010 for his immense success as a general manager. He served as the Phillies’ GM from 2005-08, building the team that won the 2008 World Series.
“There’s no change,” Amaro repeated.
Asked if he expects this to last through the season, Amaro said, “Whenever David’s back and physically able to come back he will be back and he will take his role. … We’re all concerned about David, and that’s really the priority, is David.”
Other than that, the Phillies said little.
“We’re not really at liberty to really discuss much more about it,” Amaro said.
“Just prayers and thoughts are with him for a speedy recovery,” Sandberg said. “I’m supposed to keep this at a minimum. I think it was already addressed. I was advised to keep it at a minimum.”
The Phillies made a surprising announcement this afternoon when they revealed general partner and president David Montgomery is taking an immediate medical leave of absence while he recovers from jaw cancer surgery.
Pat Gillick has assumed Montgomery’s responsibilities.
Gillick, who served as the organization’s general manager form 2005-08 and continued to work as a senior advisor, issued a statement that said, “I have the highest regard for David Montgomery, as does everyone in our industry. I am glad to be of assistance to the Phillies.”
The team added in its statement: “The club looks forward to David returning to his roles as General Partner, President and Chief Executive Officer when he is fully recovered.”
Montgomery, 68, had surgery May 19 to remove cancer form his right jaw bone. He had been undergoing treatment following the surgery. Montgomery has kept a low profile since, although he was first in line Wednesday to shake hands on the field with the Taney Little League team during a pregame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park.
Montgomery had been unavailable to reporters in recent weeks, although he spoke to a fan group last week at the ballpark. He also recently made the team’s road trip to Washington before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Montgomery has been the public face of the Phillies’ ownership group since 1997, when he became president. He started in the organization in 1971, when he sold season and group tickets. He advanced to marketing director and director of sales before becoming executive vice president following the 1981 season.
He became chief operating officer in 1992. He acquired an ownership interest in the team in 1994.
Montgomery is very popular with his employees. Former players often cite the organization’s “family atmosphere” and it is something that starts with Montgomery, who makes a point to know everybody in the organization, regardless of their stature or importance.
Cole Hamels became the latest player to express his frustrations about Sandberg, when he pulled Hamels from Tuesday’s game in the eighth inning. Hamels looked disgusted as Sandberg approached and handed him the ball as he walked off the mound. Hamels made a point after the game to sidestep questions about Sandberg.
Sandberg recently met with Domonic Brown and David Buchanan following comments they made regarding playing time. A week earlier in San Francisco, he met with Kyle Kendrick after he nearly left the mound before Sandberg could remove him from a game. Sandberg had closed-door meetings with Ryan Howard last month following his announcement he wanted to see others play more at first base, saying he could not care less about Howard’s salary because he wanted to win games. Sandberg benched Jimmy Rollins in Spring Training, but ruffled feathers when he offered a “no comment” when asked about Rollins’ energy and influence in the clubhouse.
“I just deal with it and have conversations,” Sandberg said Wednesday.
Does he feel he has a good handle on the clubhouse?
“Yes,” he said. “Yeah.”
But sources said some players are frustrated, either with how Sandberg handles the game or how he handles players. Of course, much of this has to do with losing. Problems fade on winning teams. They fester and grow on losing ones.
So is there a good or bad relationship between players and manager?
Ryne Sandberg has had his share of closed-door meetings and issues with players this season, but Ruben Amaro Jr. said today he likes the way Sandberg has handled his first full season on the job, although he acknowledged a learning curve.
“I didn’t expect Ryno to come in here and be the greatest manager of all time,” Amaro said. “This is a process. He’s learning. By and large, he’s done a good job. You’re a smart manager when teams win and you’re not so smart when you don’t have success.”
Sandberg recently met with Domonic Brown and David Buchanan following comments they made regarding playing time. A week earlier in San Francisco he met with Kyle Kendrick after he nearly left the mound before Sandberg could remove him from a game. He had closed-door meetings with Ryan Howard last month following his announcement he wanted to see others play more at first base, which he backed off a few days later. He benched Jimmy Rollins in Spring Training, but ruffled feathers when he offered a “no comment” when asked about Rollins’ energy and influence in the clubhouse.
“He’s addressing these things,” Amaro said. “That’s all I can ask of the manager. Some unfortunate comments, I think. In some case, some inappropriate comments on the player’s part. But I think that’s been handled.”
Sandberg has been criticized for some of his in-game decisions and how he handles the lineup, but a big part of a manager’s job is communicating and motivating players. Amaro said he believes Sandberg is improving in those areas.
“He was given a tough task right out of the chute,” he said. “There was an expectation for us to win. We have a lot of veterans who were, in some cases, underperforming. We had some young guys we were giving opportunities who we expected more from. It’s been challenging for him. It’s a great learning experience for him. He’s still learning and learning different ways to motivate and move the club forward. He’s addressing things. He’s learning how to handle the players on a daily basis. He’s utilizing the staff well. We still have over a month to go. I’ll know more about how he’s done. So far I’m pleased with how he’s handled things.”
Amaro touched on other topics today:
Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week the Phillies need to make serious upgrades to their offense.
He could start in the outfield.
Despite the fact Marlon Byrd is fourth in the National League in home runs and sixth in RBIs and Ben Revere has the highest batting average in baseball since June 25, Phillies outfielders entered yesterday’s series finale against the Mariners at Citizens Bank Park with a combined .706 OPS, which ranked 19th in baseball. Domonic Brown‘s .622 OPS ranked 56th out of 60 qualifying outfielders. Brown is on pace to have the lowest OPS of any left fielder since Chuck Knoblauch (.582) in 2002.
Multiple sources said recently the Phillies will take a shot at Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, but they are not expected to sign him. Castillo established residency in Haiti and was cleared by the U.S. government to sign with a team in July.
The Phillies could be more aggressive with other international free agents in the coming months. Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas has big-time power, and is somebody to watch closely. Tomas could hit the market in the next couple of months.
Yozzen Cuesta is a corner infielder, which would require the Phillies to shuffle several pieces if they plan to pursue him.
Tomas and Cuesta have established residency outside the United States and Cuba. They need to be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), then declared free agents by Major League Baseball before they sign. But action on those players could pick up once Castillo signs with a team.
But Phillies president David Montgomery‘s support for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has not wavered publicly, including yesterday at the organization’s Baseball 101 Clinic and Luncheon for Women at Citizens Bank Park.
“Ruben is not on the hot seat,” he told a large group of Phillies fans during a question-and-answer session.
The comment hit Twitter shortly thereafter. Montgomery could not be reached later for further comment.
Montgomery has continually supported Amaro, despite nearly constant criticism from outside the organization. He told MLB.com in February, “I think we have somebody whose experience working under two general managers served him well and positioned him to be very effective at his job. We — we — need to do better.”
He told The Philadelphia Inquirer in June, “I think we have pretty good people doing these jobs. We saw, over a long period, pretty good success with this group of people. Obviously, Ruben is part of that group.”
Kendrick stormed off the field and immediately into the Phillies clubhouse.
“I didn’t want to come out of the game,” Kendrick said. “I wasn’t trying to show up Ryno or nothing. I didn’t try to. That wasn’t my intention. I was just upset. I wanted to get where nobody could see me as quickly as possible.”
He also said he wasn’t upset at teammates Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for letting a routine pop up fall between them, which sparked an ugly inning in which the Phillies blew a four-run lead in a 6-5 loss.
“I didn’t handle it right,” Kendrick said. “That wasn’t very professional of me.”
Kendrick is 5-11 with a 4.90 ERA, which is the third-highest ERA out of 94 qualifying pitchers in baseball. He is a free agent after the season.
“Everything has just kind of been building up,” Kendrick said. “It’s been a tough year for us as a team and me personally. You’ve still got to keep fighting. But little stuff irritates you. … When I’m pitching I don’t really think about (free agency). When I’m out there I’m just focused on one pitch at a time. When I’m out there, no. It’s definitely not on my mind. Maybe in between starts I think about it because – shoot, I’m human. I have a family to provide for. I have two kids. So I think, where am I going to be? All that stuff.”
Asked if he thinks he will be back with the Phillies, Kendrick said, “I don’t know. I want to go where whoever wants me. That’s where I want to go. If it’s here, great. If they want me. You want to go somewhere where you’re wanted. We’ll see. I don’t know.”
The Phillies acquired him yesterday as the first player to be named in the deal. The Phillies have until the middle of next month to select the second player, which will come from a remaining pool of three players. Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated they are leaning toward a pitcher.
“We have a pretty good idea of who we want but we’re still waiting to make a decision right now,” he said. “We’ll check on some medical stuff. They’re younger guys. For the situation we’re in and the player we gave up, I think we did pretty well. Even if we had just this guy, we’d be happy with it.”
MLB.com ranked Valentin, who is the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin, as the No. 13 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization. Selected 51st overall as a supplement pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Valentin was hitting .282 with 22 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 47 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 107 games with Great Lakes.
Valentin will report to Class A Clearwater.
“We like the kid,” Amaro said. “He’s got baseball acumen. He’s advanced pretty quickly. He plays short and second; we’ll probably have him play second base for us. Switch hitter. Plays the game well. … We’re not sure if he’s better from the right or from the left side. He doesn’t have a whole lot of Minor-league at bats yet. But he’s all right. He’s someone who handles the bat pretty well. He has a little bit of pop. He’s not a big guy, but has a little pop. He can run. He plays the game right. He plays hard.”
Amaro said there is chance the Phillies could make at least another trade before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline.
The Phillies announced this evening they have acquired Class A second baseman Jesmuel Valentin from the Dodgers as the first of two players to be named in the Roberto Hernandez trade.
MLB.com ranked Valentin as the No. 13 prospect in the Dodgers’ organization.
Selected 51st overall as a supplement pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Valentin was hitting .282 with 22 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 47 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 107 games with Great Lakes.
He struggled in 33 games with Great Lakes last season, posting a .618 OPS, but has improved at the plate this season.
Class A Clearwater shortstop J.P. Crawford has not played since Monday because of a sprained left ankle.
It is not believed to be serious. Crawford reportedly felt better Saturday.
“I’m not sure how much longer it is going to take,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said before today’s game against the Giants at AT&T Park. “We’re not overly concerned.”
Crawford is the top player prospect in the organization. The 19-year-old is hitting .274 with four doubles, six home runs, 18 RBIs and a .743 OPS in 48 games with Clearwater since a midseason promotion from Class A Lakewood.