Charlie Manuel on Phillies: 'We're a ways off'

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Charlie Manuel on Phillies: 'We're a ways off'

It’s funny how quickly things have changed.

Once, the Phillies held one of the longest postseason droughts in all of baseball. From 1994 through 2006, the Phillies did not have one playoff appearance. And mostly, they weren’t even close. In team history, the five straight division crowns from 2007 to 2011 are unprecedented as the club has made just 14 postseason appearances in 129 seasons.

So as the Phillies limp into the dog days with a 48-56 record and a ready-to-move roster, it appears as if the old days are back with the Phillies.

Barring an unforeseen late-season surge, the Phillies will miss the playoffs for a second straight year. With a payroll that ranks up with the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers and spoiled by the recent success, a two-year drought takes some getting used to.

But according to manager Charlie Manuel, recapturing the not-so-old glory is going to take some work.

“I think we’re a ways off,” Manuel said before Tuesday night’s game against the Giants at Citizens Bank Park.

Take your pick as to why this is the case. The aging core, a roster loaded with starting pitching but not much experienced bullpen help, injuries and a dearth of prospects ready to contribute in the big leagues. As Manuel says, watch the game.

“I’ve known what we’ve had for the last two years,” Manuel said.

Manuel knew it, but there isn’t much he’s been saying. During the lost weekend in Detroit where the Phillies were swept by the Tigers and outscored 24-5 in three games, Manuel pointed out how managers aren’t asked for much input when the front office puts together the roster.  

Before Tuesday’s game against the Giants, Manuel lamented the lack of bullpen talent.

“We have a young bullpen that needs experience and it takes a top-flight team to win the division and be able to go to the World Series,” Manuel said. “That's what we're talking about here, right?”

Certainly, that’s one part of it. But it’s tough to pin the entire woebegone season on the relievers. During the current eight-game losing streak, the Phillies have batted just .202 and scored 14 runs. That comes to 1.75 runs per game, which, combined with the 6.19 ERA by the pitching staff, shows just how tough it’s been.

Plus, Manuel’s lineup in Sunday’s loss featured just three players that were in the opening day starting lineup. Where’s the consistency?

“Age goes into it, injuries go into it, that's what I've been talking about,” Manuel said.

Age and injuries. Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay stand out in that regard. Meanwhile, outfielders Ben Revere and Dom Brown have been out as well. However, even if the Phillies had been healthy all year, Manuel still isn’t sure if it would have been enough to keep the Phillies in contention.

“There's a lot of ifs in there,” Manuel said. “We’ve got Brown coming (back), we’ve got Howard, if we can get him well. He's gotta get well, he's gotta get healthy and then he's got to get into top-notch shape. We've got Halladay -- if we had Halladay, then yeah, we’d get better. But there's a lot of ifs there.

“Now I have to (ask), if we can we count on people? Count on the issues that we had getting better, and also performing at their peak. When the year starts, I like every one of our players. I've always said that and I still like our players. But I also see how we play. Let's don’t fool ourselves. How we play is how we play.

“Now if we play like we did on the road trip, we're not going to be very good. We have to play better.”

How to accomplish that is the big question. Manuel says the Phillies need to get better “at a lot of positions.” He also said that the Phillies need to improve beyond what anyone is talking about.

Perhaps Manuel is suggesting that the Phillies need to get better at positions that aren’t seen in the box score?

“What do I think when I watch our games? What do you see? You tell me what you see every day, day in and day out,” Manuel said. “I see that we have to get better.”

It’s hard to disagree with that. Going into Tuesday’s game, the Phillies were in third place in the weak NL East, 11½ games behind the Braves. So yes, the Phillies need to get better.

How to get better is a different issue.

Mistake-prone Odubel Herrera: 'I have to slow down and be smarter'

Mistake-prone Odubel Herrera: 'I have to slow down and be smarter'

SEATTLE — Two days after being fined for ignoring a manager's order and one day after failing to run out a dropped third strike on one of his three strikeouts, enigmatic Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera was not in the starting lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Seattle Mariners.

Benched?

No, said manager Pete Mackanin.

"Just a day off," he said.

Benched?

No, said Herrera.

"No, no, he talked to me today and said just a night off," Herrera said. "He told me I will play tomorrow."

With a tough lefty, James Paxton, pitching for Seattle, Mackanin went with a lineup heavy on right-handed bats and switch-hitters. Herrera hits left-handed. Paxton was holding lefty hitters to a .194 batting average this season.

Interestingly, Herrera has hit lefties (.272) better than righties (.250) this season and he's in the midst of a month of June that has seen him stroke 16 extra-base hits while hitting .333 for a team that scored just four runs while losing its last three in Phoenix.

Nonetheless, Mackanin held Herrera out.

"It gives me a chance to play the other guys," said Mackanin, who used an outfield of Daniel Nava in left field, Aaron Altherr in center and Cameron Perkins in right.

So it has nothing to do with Herrera's three punch outs and effort on Monday?

"No," Mackanin said.

Is Herrera tired?

"It just gives me the opportunity to get the other guys some at-bats," Mackanin said.

Despite a big month of June at the plate — a .359 on-base percentage and a .545 slugging percentage — Herrera has committed a series of frustrating mistakes, from running through a stop sign at third base, to getting picked off, to not running out a dropped third strike, to ignoring a sign.

Herrera often has a green light to steal bases, but Mackanin put a hold on him with two outs in the sixth inning of Saturday night's game. Herrera ignored the hold and was caught stealing while the Phils trailed, 3-2. They ended up losing, 9-2.

Herrera's transgression resulted in Mackanin's taking disciplinary action: He fined the player several hundred dollars. (It will be donated to charity.)

Herrera confirmed that he was fined.

"I understand the fine," he said in English. "I have to learn."

Herrera confirmed that he ignored Mackanin's red light in Saturday's game.

"I saw the sign," Herrera said. "I just took a chance because I saw the catcher's sign (for a breaking ball) and I thought I could make it. But the pitcher didn't throw to home, he threw to first."

Herrera acknowledged his rash of recent mistakes.

"Not concentrating," he said. "A lack of concentration. Sometimes I use too much aggressiveness, you know? I have to slow down and be smarter and just learn from things."

The Phillies signed Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million contract over the winter. That kind of money can dull a player's edge, but Herrera insists that he's as hungry as ever.

"No, no, no," he said. "I'm not like that. I still want to play hard, still want to be aggressive. Sometimes you don't get the results that you are looking for."

MLB Notes: Tim Tebow ready for next step through Mets' system

MLB Notes: Tim Tebow ready for next step through Mets' system

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow knows he can still improve on everything.

Given his numbers, that's obvious.

If he's the world's most popular minor league .220 hitter, that's just fine with the new left fielder for the St. Lucie Mets. Called up to the New York Mets' advanced Class A affiliate in the Florida State League earlier this week, Tebow was supposed to bat eighth and debut with his new club Tuesday.

First, though, an unplanned day off: The game was postponed after a deluge hit just before the scheduled first pitch. A doubleheader was set for Wednesday.

For St. Lucie, Tebowmania will wait another day.

"We're all as eager as anyone else is to see what the overall impact is going to be," St. Lucie general manager Traer Van Allen said.

Tebow went through batting practice -- under bright sun, incidentally -- and shook hands on the field with some of his new teammates.

He said he isn't looking ahead, and for now remains just focused on the process of getting better.

"It's a scary place to get caught up in, the `where's this going to lead,' `what's going to happen to my future,' `what is the next day,'" Tebow said. "I get today. Tomorrow's not promised. I'm going to make the most of today.

"And that sounds cliche, but gosh, I hope when you look at my life 10, 20, 30 years from now, you can see somebody that they really took advantage of that day," (see full story).

Cubs: Champs to make informal trip to White House
WASHINGTON -- Manager Joe Maddon and some of the Chicago Cubs will visit the White House on Wednesday, though it's not an official visit with President Donald Trump.

Maddon said Tuesday that he was going out of respect for the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs and donated to Trump's campaign. Maddon said it was voluntary for Cubs players and not an official trip.

"I don't have any rules to begin with," Maddon said. "I just want you to run hard to first base. As long as you run hard to first base, they can make up their own mind whether they want to go to the White House or not. As long as my pitchers work on defense, they can do whatever they want tomorrow."

The Cubs are in Washington to play the Nationals.

The White House visit is so unofficial that Maddon said it's only "a possibility" that he and the Cubs will see Trump. The team visited President Barack Obama at the White House as World Series champions in January before the end of his term.

Amid questions about whether the NBA champion Golden State Warriors will visit Trump, Maddon said he isn't making a political statement by going.

"I like the United States a lot, I like living here a lot and I like everything that it represents a lot," Maddon said. "When you get a chance as a citizen to get to go to the White House, you go. I think you go. And whether you like the person that's running the country or not, out of respect to the office itself, you go" (see full story).

Yankees: Castro on DL; prospect Wade recalled
CHICAGO -- The New York Yankees placed Starlin Castro on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.

Castro was injured running out a ground ball in the third inning of New York's 6-5 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night. The second baseman is batting .313 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 73 games.

Although an MRI on Tuesday morning revealed a Grade 1 strain, Castro doesn't believe he'll be sidelined long.

"I don't think it's serious," he said. "When I woke up, I was walking normal."

The Yankees recalled infielder Tyler Wade -- one of the organization's top prospects -- from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take Castro's roster spot.

Wade, 22, wasn't in the lineup Tuesday because Chicago started left-hander Jose Quintana. Yankees manager Joe Girardi plans to start Wade against right-handers.

Indians: Manager Francona hospitalized, misses game
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona missed Tuesday night's game against Texas after his second trip to the hospital this month.

The Indians said doctors for now have ruled out major health issues and Francona will be monitored the next several weeks.

The 58-year-old Francona left Monday night's game because he wasn't feeling well. He spent several hours at Cleveland Clinic and underwent a series of tests.

Francona was released from the hospital on Tuesday and spent the rest of the day at home. He was expected to return to the dugout Wednesday when the Indians host the Rangers.

Bench coach Brad Mills is running the team in Francona's absence. Cleveland began the day in first place in the AL Central after rallying for a 15-9 win Monday.

"Tito actually wanted to come back to the ballpark today," team president Chris Antonetti said Tuesday. "I told him he can't come back to the ballpark today. He only got a couple hours of sleep last night, so despite his desire to want to be here, I thought it was best that he gets some rest tonight and just come back tomorrow. His plan when he was getting released from the hospital was to come over here."

"I don't think he was exceedingly happy with me," Antonetti said with a laugh. "That's OK."

Francona was hospitalized June 13 following a game at Progressive Field. He underwent tests and was released a few hours later, returning to work the following night. Last August, he missed a game after experiencing chest pains but was back the next day.

"Thankfully, we've got some great doctors that are coordinating his care," Antonetti said. "They've done every test they can possibly imagine. They've all come back clean. They're now working to try to figure out what are some of those things that are causing him to not feel so well."

Francona, a close friend of Mills for several years, has retained his sense of humor through his health issues.

A statement released by the team Tuesday read, "Mr. Francona also wanted to express that medical personnel have not yet ruled out an allergy to Bench Coach Brad Mills."

Brewers: Braun, Villar activated from disabled list
CINCINNATI -- The Milwaukee Brewers have activated outfielder Ryan Braun and second baseman Jonathan Villar from the 10-day disabled list before opening a three-game series at Cincinnati.

The Brewers on Tuesday designated infielder-outfielder Nick Franklin for assignment. Milwaukee already had a spot open on the 25-man roster after optioning catcher Jeff Bandy and outfielder Lewis Brinson to Triple-A Colorado Springs and adding catcher Stephen Vogt on Sunday.

Braun missed 31 games because of a left calf strain. He hit .262 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 30 games before going on the disabled list for the second time this season with the same injury.

Villar has missed the last 16 games because of a lower back sprain. He hit .213 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 59 games.