Cody Asche, Ryne Sandberg and Cliff Lee have all been bright spots on the Phillies' otherwise tough season. (USA Today Images)
When Charlie Manuel was dismissed as Phillies manager in mid-August, you knew Ryne Sandberg would take a close look at a number of the young prospects in September.
Night in and night out, three or four minor-league call-ups have been starters in the Phillies' lineup and some, like Cody Asche and Darin Ruf, have proven they deserve a spot in the 2014 lineup.
Amidst the youth movement is the steady play of Cliff Lee. Monday was perhaps Lee’s most impressive performance of the year, a 12-2 defeat of the Marlins. Lee went eight strong innings with 14 strikeouts, the most he has had since he had 16 strikeouts in a game in May 2011. Strikeouts are nice, but what Lee is most proud of is his ability to stay healthy and eat up innings. For the sixth consecutive season, Lee has pitched more than 200 innings. Combine that with his third straight year of over 200 strikeouts, and Lee is everything you could ask for from an ace.
As the Phillies work on rebuilding the club for next season (and hopefully years to come), Lee is an awfully nice anchor to have in the pitching rotation with Cole Hamels. Lee has two years left on his contract after this season worth $50 million. The hope is that the team will be competitive again while Lee is still effective on the mound.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will no doubt be tempted during the offseason to move Lee, but history tells us his value is here rather than as trade bait. I'm sure Sandberg has no interest in letting Lee go.
Based on how the Phillies have played in the past month under Sandberg (17-13), I would fully expect his interim tag to be removed soon and his voice will carry more weight in the organization as the Phillies try to return to their winning ways in 2014.