Results tagged ‘ Charlie Manuel ’

Opening Day Lineup: Take 1

Charlie Manuel, Chase UtleyCharlie Manuel talked a bit about his 2013 lineup this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park:

“Who we’ve got on the corners in the outfield, that’s who’s going to dictate where our lineup falls.”

For the moment, the Phillies have Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix in the corners. Everybody in the organization would like to see them add a reliable, proven, right-handed-power-hitting corner outfielder, but nothing has happened yet. If nothing happens before Spring Training, Manuel will have to work with Ruf, Brown, Mayberry and Nix.

He said “without a doubt” the Phillies could platoon in both left and right field.

“But at the same time that’s something that will have to be worked out,” Manuel said. “If it’s what we’ve got right now, if that’s what we’ve got to go with, I think going into Spring Training I’ll play everybody and just see what happens. … We’ll just wait and see. Since we’ve been here our organization has always tried to improve our team, and if we can that’s what we’re going to do.”

Hey, maybe Ruben Amaro Jr. has something up his sleeve.

“I’m not leaning into that,” Manuel said. “I’m always going to fish. Of course I want him to get somebody good or big or whatever, but at the same time I think we’ve gotten much better. Young is definitely going to help us. So is Ben.”

Knowing it is only Dec. 10 and plenty can change before the Phillies’ April 1 season opener in Atlanta, here’s my best guess at Manuel’s Opening Day lineup:

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Sandberg’s Journey Back

I had a chance to speak with Ryne Sandberg earlier today about his journey back to the big leagues.

It took him six years of managing in the minors before the Phillies hired him as third base coach. That seemed like a long time to a lot of people: Hall of Fame second baseman can’t get a job in the big leagues? What’s up with that? But Sandberg sounded like a patient guy who had no trouble paying his dues. He is well aware there are plenty more coaches in the minor leagues that have been coaching a lot longer than six years before getting the call.

Case in point: new Phillies bullpen coach Rod Nichols spent the previous 13 seasons in the minors.

Everybody considers Sandberg the heir apparent to Charlie Manuel, whose contract expires after next season. Manuel said he is not worried about any questions that might pop up next season about his future, which could happen if the Phillies start slowly.

Asked if he felt he needed to have a conversation with Manuel about any of those potential questions from pesky reporters, Sandberg said, “We’ll both be fine. I’ve been around him long enough. I feel like he has a trust in all of his coaches. I don’t think I’d be on his coaching staff if there wasn’t a trust level and a comfort level. I think we’ve developed a trust these last two years, both in Spring Training and in September as a call up. We’re very comfortable with each other. I enjoy being around him, and I think he feels the same way about me. And now we’ll work together. We have a common goal: winning as many games as we can and get to a World Series.”

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Jimmy Is Good

The news conference yesterday at Citizens Bank Park with Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel lasted 42 glorious minutes, and it pretty much had three themes:

  1. The coaching staff changes, which included Ryne Sandberg‘s arrival as third base coach and as Manuel’s possible replacement.
  2. Amaro’s thoughts on the offseason.
  3. How in the world can the Phillies possibly survive another season with Jimmy Rollins?!?!?!?!?

There were about 5,900 words in the 42-minute transcript. Nearly 1,200 covered Rollins.

Who knew Rollins was 20 percent of this team’s problems?

Listen, I understand Rollins can be frustrating. He doesn’t always hustle, and there’s simply no excuse for it. He popped out in the infield 42 times this season to lead the big leagues. That is painful to watch. He also hit just .250 with a .316 on-base percentage, his lowest OBP since 2009 (.296).

But let’s put Rollins’ season into perspective, shall we?

Here is how he ranked among all shortstops in Major League Baseball:

  • Third in WAR (5.0).
  • Fourth out of 21 qualifying shortstops with a .429 slugging percentage.
  • First in runs (102).
  • Second in home runs (23).
  • Second in doubles (33) and walks (68).
  • Fourth in RBIs (68).
  • Tied for fifth in triples (5).
  • Sixth with a .746 OPS.

Not bad.

I know some folks might not want to hear it, but Rollins was one of the better shortstops in baseball this season, both offensively and defensively. Now, one can make the argument the Phillies would be better served with somebody else hitting leadoff, considering Rollins’ low on-base percentage. (Playing devil’s advocate, Rollins’ superior base running allows him to take advantage of the times he is on base, which might explain his 102 runs scored.) But just because the Phillies don’t have another option at leadoff doesn’t mean Rollins should be pinned as the crux of this team’s offensive problems. He isn’t. But that is how it is portrayed.

“Two months ago, I heard somebody talk about (Michael) Bourn from Atlanta and you know how good he’d be in the leadoff hole, but Jimmy Rollins has more production than Bourn has and things like that,” Manuel said. “What I’m getting at is who
out there in the Major Leagues does any better than Jimmy in the leadoff hole? If you find that guy, mention him to me.”

This team has bigger fish to fry than Rollins. There is Chase Utley‘s health. There is Ryan Howard‘s health. There is the entire outfield (Amaro said yesterday nobody is guaranteed a spot in next season’s outfield). There is third base.

Shortstop is one of the only solid spots in the lineup.

Rollins isn’t a perfect hitter when compared to every other hitter at every other position in baseball. But compare him to other shotstops in baseball and he’s still producing. So focus the ire and frustration elsewhere.

Changes to Coaching Staff; Sandberg Likely In

More changes are coming.

The Phillies announced their first changes following today’s season finale at Nationals Park, where they informed bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Greg Gross and first base coach Sam Perlozzo they will not be back in 2013.

“I think when you want to do some things, people on your staff, most of the time they’re the ones that have to be let go or moved or whatever,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel explained. “I think that’s just the position it’s in.”

Mackanin replaced Jimy Williams as bench coach following the 2008 season. Perlozzo replaced third base coach Steve Smith following the 2008 season before moving to first base in 2011. Gross, who served two tours as Phillies hitting coach, rejoined the team in July 2010, when the Phillies fired Milt Thompson.

It is expected Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg will join the coaching staff in 2013, unless he takes a big-league managing job elsewhere.

The coaching staff changes will only lead to more significant changes on the 25-man roster.

“We’re definitely going to have some changes on our roster,” Manuel said. “How many or what, I really don’t know. From talking to Ruben (Amaro Jr.), we’re going to try to get better and get back to compete, win our division and have a chance at the World Series.”

Howard Breaks Toe, Season Finished

It is a fitting end to a forgettable season.

Ryan Howard, who missed much of 2012 following left Achilles surgery, broke his right big toe Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, where he dropped the lead pipe his swings in the on-deck circle squarely on his toe. Howard said an x-ray Thursday revealed a small fracture in the toe, which will require nothing more than rest to heal.

But his season is over.

So what’s next for the Phillies’ $125 million man? Only the most important offseason of his career.

Howard hit .219 with 11 doubles, 14 home runs and 56 RBIs in 71 games. His batting average, on-base percentage (.295), slugging percentage (.423) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.718) are career lows, but he projected to 127 RBIs over a full season because he hit .329 with runners in scoring position.

“I know I’m a better hitter than that,” Howard said. “But I think for being able to come in and try to do the best I could and contribute, still being able to get 56 RBIs and 14 home runs and whatnot, considering everything that had gone on and not really having a Spring Training to properly get ready for the season, I look at that as a positive.”

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Utley Won’t Play Third

The Phillies have pulled the plug on the Chase Utley third base experiment.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel said Friday at Marlins Park that Utley will not play third base before the end of the season, leaving the Phillies’ future at the position murky. Utley initiated the idea of a move from second to third and had been working out there for weeks, but the Phillies decided they could not make a credible evaluation about his ability to play there on a long-term basis in just six games.

“It’s kind of on hold, I guess,” Amaro said. “It’s more of a matter of practicality and what’s really best for the team overall. I think while having that option would be helpful, I don’t know if it’s really an option that’s going to make us necessarily better.”

That seems to put the Phillies in a tough spot.

Amaro has made it clear the free agent market for third basemen is not impressive. It is a list that includes Kevin Youkilis, Scott Rolen and Brandon Inge. The Phillies could try to trade for a third baseman, but good luck getting somebody like Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres. Internally, the Phillies seem to view Kevin Frandsen as a part-time player, while Freddy Galvis, who would have been the team’s second baseman had Utley made the switch, has never played third base.

“It doesn’t really change things all that much,” Amaro insisted. “It can be revisited, with Chase being an option. It just doesn’t make any sense for us to have him out there for six games and think that that’s going to change our minds one way or another. It’s not a dead issue. It’s just kind of unfair to the player and to us to think we can make an evaluation in six games and say, ‘OK, shazam, this guy can play.’ That’s not necessarily fair to him. We’re not good enough scouts to make that determination.”

Amaro and Manuel are meeting with players before the end of the season. They met Friday with Utley and Jimmy Rollins.

Amaro said Utley was OK with their decision to keep him at second.

“He’s fine,” Amaro said. “He only came to us because he thought it might help our club, because he knows it’s an area of need.”

Asked about his No. 1 priority this offseason, Amaro said, “I don’t know if we have a No. 1. I think offense is important to us. I’d like to create some balance from the right side offensively. I think that’s something that would help. Having a healthy Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) would help that, but he gets banged up so we have to be cognizant of that. Third base is an issue we have to deal with. I think while we have some very, very good arms in the bullpen we’ll keep an eye on that as well.”

But Amaro also said the Phillies might need to be creative to fill some holes this offseason. Rather than maybe spending big money on the big name on the free agent market, perhaps they will spend more judiciously.

“I think patience is going to be important throughout this offseason,” he said. “And the reason that I say that is some of the opportunities that will present themselves … none of the opportunities that present themselves, at least at first blush, are all that fantastic. I think we’re going to have to, as far as the availability of all players, I think we’re going to have to be creative to try to improve. There are only a few standout guys out there that would be potential free agents.”

Maybe the Phillies look to Galvis to play third base. They had said Galvis would be the second baseman if Utley played third, so they could simply switch spots.

“He did work out there during Spring Training,” Amaro said. “And overall, pretty good reviews on how he handled it. He didn’t do it in any games. But the man went from short to second and was awesome. And now … I don’t know if it’s that much of a stretch to move him to third base and not think he’d be a plus defender.”

Amaro and Manuel said they would keep the door open on Utley trying third base again. Perhaps Utley will spend his offseason working out there and want to give it a shot in Spring Training.

Perhaps.

“If you stop and think about it, he definitely has a big say in it,” Manuel said. “He has to feel comfortable, really good about it. He would do anything to win, but … we’ll just see. It’ll always be there if we want to do that.”

But for now the Phillies will go into the offseason looking for a third baseman.

Utley at Third? Could Happen Soon

It sounds like Chase Utley will play third base before the end of the season if two things happen:

  1. Utley feels comfortable enough to play there.
  2. The Phillies fall from contention in the National League Wild Card race. That could happen quickly. The Phillies entered Monday’s series opener against the Mets at Citi Field four games out of the second National League Wild Card with just 15 games to play.

“I think I’ve been out there three or four times,” Utley said, referring to his pregame workouts at third base. “Every time I get a little more comfortable. But I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. So far it’s going well. I feel like I’ve progressed a little bit, but there’s still more room for improvement.”

Utley is taking this potential move seriously. He spoke with Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel in Manuel’s office before batting practice. He later spoke with Mets third baseman David Wright behind the batting cage with Wright even crouching into a defensive position as he offered advice.

“I think he’s doing fine,” Amaro said of Utley.

Fine enough to play third base next season?

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Amaro said.

Asked if the Phillies can learn enough about Utley at third base if he plays just a couple games there before the end of the season, Amaro said, “Realistically, I don’t think so. But if he really dedicates himself to doing it, I think the probability of him being able to do it is much higher than it is with other people. I think more than anything else this is finding out if in fact he feels comfortable enough doing it. Having him play third base just gives us another option. And what’s wrong with giving us another option?”

Both Amaro and Manuel agree the Phillies are better defensively in 2013 with Freddy Galvis at second base and Utley at third base, despite the uncertainty of Utley’s ability to play there. Certainly if they feel Utley can play third base it would give the Phillies one less thing to worry about in the offseason, which would be a plus because Amaro said the market for third basemen via trade or free agency is “not very good.”

But here’s the big question: If Utley only plays a couple games at third base and Amaro does not think he can truly evaluate Utley’s ability to play there based on just a couple games, how do the Phillies go into the offseason knowing Utley is their 2013 third baseman?

“I don’t necessarily,” Amaro said. “It becomes riskier. Then you take a risk sometimes. Sometimes it’s OK to take a risk.”

Chooch Is Back

Carlos Ruiz is back, but it remains to be seen how much he will play.

Ruiz had been on the disabled list since Aug. 3 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot before the Phillies activated him today. The Phillies plan to ease back Ruiz slowly, using him as a pinch-hitter this weekend before working him in as a defensive replacement. He could start once or twice a week once he gets comfortable.

“We definitely want to be careful with him,” Charlie Manuel said. “What he’s got is something that if he’s on his feet for a long time, if he’s moving a lot, he gets real tight.”

But the Phillies said there is little risk playing Ruiz the remainder of the season.

“If it was going to hurt him, we wouldn’t do it,” Manuel said. “But they feel like it’s not going to hurt him.”

Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock concurred.

“I think we’re very comfortable with the fact that I don’t think he’s going to do any further damage,” he said. “But he hasn’t played so I think it’s just something that we’re going to … hopefully he can come out and contribute a little bit and get back in a rhythm and be ready to go for next year. I think it’s important that he gets back out on the field.”

And why is that?

“I think for him, and I think he still has a chance to help us,” Proefrock said. “As long of a shot as it is, we’re not out of this. He can contribute. He’s an important part of our offense.”

Said Ruiz: “I know everybody was concerned that maybe I was done for the year, but I was thinking that I would try really hard to come back because I want to finish. Now I’m happy that I got activated. I’m ready to go. I want to finish the season. I want to go home happy. I told myself I have to finish playing and then relax and be ready for next year. I was really sad in last six weeks. Now I have the chance to get back in the lineup.”

Rollins Apologizes to Manuel

Jimmy Rollins walked into Charlie Manuel’s office this afternoon at Turner Field and quietly closed the door behind him.

They emerged seven minutes later with smiles on their faces. They appeared to have reached an understanding for the second time in as many weeks about one of Manuel’s two team rules: hustle. Manuel benched Rollins in yesterday’s 3-2 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park because he did not hustle to first base after popping up a ball in the infield in the sixth inning.

“He walked in there and manned up,” Manuel said. “He said he was wrong and apologized to me. “

“You break the rules, that was the punishment,” Rollins said. “Plan and simple. It’s really that simple.”

It should be, but the incident came exactly two weeks after Manuel called Rollins into his office after not hustling during a game in Miami.

So the question is why does this keep happening?

Why can’t Rollins just hustle?

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Rollins Benched Again

The Phillies should not be stunned Jimmy Rollins did not hustle to first base in the sixth inning today at Citizens Bank Park.

He had committed similar sins long before they signed him to a three-year, $33 million contract in December.

He has been pulled from games before for not hustling. He has been scratched from the lineup for being late to the ballpark. Charlie Manuel spoke with Rollins in Milwaukee on Aug. 16 after Rollins strolled to first base in the sixth inning and did not appear to try to break up a double play in the eighth inning in an Aug. 15 game in Miami.

Manuel said that afternoon in Milwaukee, “He should be running hard from now on. We’ll see.”

But exactly two weeks later Manuel pulled Rollins from today’s 3-2 victory over the New York Mets when Rollins did not hustle to first base on an infield popup in the sixth inning. Rollins immediately dropped his head upon contact and lightly jogged to first. Only when Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese dropped the ball did Rollins pick up his pace.

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