Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Returning To Basic And Moving Forward


Charlie Knows Best – Nobody credits Charlie Manuel more for his hitting success than Jim Thome. Thome not only credits Manuel with improving his swing, but helping him believe he could be a successful hitter in the big leagues. Manuel made Thome feel good about himself, and Thome carried that confidence to the plate. Perhaps Manuel can help Ryan Howard, whose production has been slipping for several seasons. The pair is working together this spring. Manuel was reluctant to talk about Howard because he is sensitive to the fact he is a guest instructor and not the manager or hitting coach, but he said he hopes to help. "I do that with everybody," Manuel said. "I always talk about the positives. I always tell guys they can hit. Every one of these guys need it. Ryan has known me for a long time. I think he feels very comfortable around me. That's good."

Moving Forward – The Phillies tried to set a tone Tuesday, when they held their first full-squad workout at Carpenter Complex. But before that, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Ryne Sandberg stood up in front of the players, coaching staff and team personnel to give their annual talks. Amaro's message: Put the offseason behind us and move forward. "Giving us a common goal and a common feel," was how Phillies' ace Cole Hamels described the speeches. "I think just so we can develop our own personality and chemistry, because that's what we're supposed to do now. "That's behind us." That is an offseason in which the front office said it is building for the future with an eye on being competitive again in a few years. Moves included Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo being traded, and speculation continued that Hamels, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon could be moved at some point. "I think everybody did a really good job of getting us all on the right page," Hamels said. "We're starting something fresh. What happened five years ago, four years ago is completely over. It's a new design." Sandberg said he set the parameters and priorities for camp and the season (e.g., being a good baserunning and situational-hitting team, etc.). "That was loud and clear," Sandberg said. "It was very positive. I told them about how excited they should be at this time of year."

Just Missed – The Phillies, like just about every other big league club, could have used a talented prospect like Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada in their system. The Phillies said they had interest, but how much is uncertain. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday the organization had contact with Moncada's agent until Monday, when reported Moncada agreed to a record-breaking $31.5 million contract with the Red Sox. Did the Phillies offer him a contract? "I'm not going to get into it," Amaro said. Moncada is under 23 and had not yet played five years in the Cuban professional league, which put him under different amateur guidelines than Cuban outfielder Yasmany Thomas, who signed a $68.5 million deal in December with the D-backs. Under Moncada's guidelines, the Red Sox must pay a 100 percent penalty because they surpassed their annual international bonus allotment. In essence, they paid $63 million for the 19-year-old prospect. The Red Sox also cannot spend more than $300,000 on any international player for the next two signing periods (2015-16 and 2016-17). Of course, if Moncada lives up to the hype (many compare him to Robinson Cano) he would be worth it.

Davis Joins The Booth – Ben Davis said Tuesday he could not pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Davis has been named Jamie Moyer's replacement in the Phillies' broadcast booth on Comcast SportsNet. He will be a color analyst with Matt Stairs and Mike Schmidt. They join Tom McCarthy and Gregg Murphy on the TV team. Schmidt will be back during Sunday home games, but he is negotiating a contract for Saturday home games as well. He said Tuesday he had not heard if there has been a resolution to those negotiations. "When I got out of baseball I had to find that transition," said Davis, who played seven seasons with the Padres, Mariners and White Sox. "What can I do next? I was very fortunate to get my foot in the door with SportsNet and do the pre- and postgame shows. That was a blast. I loved doing that, but talking baseball in the sense I can now, it's going to be just a ton of fun. I just flat out love baseball and I love talking about it." Davis grew up in Delaware County and attended Malvern Prep. He was the second overall pick in the 1995 First-Year Player Draft. "This is a dream come true," Davis said.

The Phillies will look to rebound this season from a 73-89 record last year. While uncertainty abounds, there is little question that the franchise is in rebuild mode based on the moves and statements that have been made during the offseason. The only question that remains is whether or not the young and veteran talent on the team can work together to disprove Gillick’s predictions either this year or next.

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