Manuel on offense: 'I don't know what I can do'

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Manuel on offense: 'I don't know what I can do'

Charlie Manuel is so mad about his offense, he's ready to knock somebody out.

The Phillies had all eight of their projected starters in the lineup for just the sixth time this season, and even though they spotted Cole Hamels an early 3-0 lead Friday, they failed to score again after the second inning and left 10 men on base in a 4-3 home loss to the Mets (see game recap).

From the third inning on, the Phillies put eight men on base but had nothing to show for it. Chase Utley, in his return from the disabled list (see story), twice came up with two outs and men in scoring position but couldn't bring anyone home.

"I thought Utley hit tonight with some guys on base, but at the same time, the first ball he hit to first base and the line drive he hit to center field was hit hard," Manuel said. "He'll be fine."

But, reporter Howard Eskin asked, is the rest of the lineup going to be fine?

"Stop thinking about that -- 'Is the rest of the lineup gonna be fine?'" Manuel retorted. "Do I know if the rest of the lineup is gonna be fine? If I knew that, don't you think I'd do something about it?

"Does anybody else know that Howard? Do you know it? I don't think so. I know you don't as a matter of fact. Who does know it?"

"But the point is," Eskin interjected, "is there anything left to do if the rest of the lineup..."

And that seemed to put Manuel over the edge.

"I don't know what I can do," Manuel said, loudly and clearly, without a bit of hesitation. "If we don't hit and score runs, I don't know what we can do. I don't know what nobody else can do about it and I know you can't do a damn thing about it.

"So what else you wanna know? Anything else?"

And it almost ended there, but Eskin had one last question, and Manuel, walking away, had one final response.

"When you gonna score 10 runs?"

"When I knock you out," Manuel said. "That's when."

Clearly, the manager lost his cool on a night when his team failed to eclipse the three-run mark for the 40th time in 74 games this season. The Phillies are 9-31 in those games; they're 26-8 when they score four runs or more.

The Phillies are averaging just 3.68 runs per game this year -- down from an average of 4.22 per game last season. That number drops to 2.93 when Cole Hamels, who suffered his 11th loss Friday, takes the mound.

Hamels maintains he doesn't think about it.

"I never have," Hamels said. "I've been really good at moving on from year to year about not paying attention or really focusing on the past, even game to game.

"Today was a game that I feel like we could've seized and it was a good opportunity, and I wasn't able to take care of what I needed to take care of."

One of the main problems with the Phillies' offense is that it just hasn't been clicking on all cylinders at the same time. When one guy is hot, the rest of the lineup is in a funk. Domonic Brown, the National League's Player of the Month for May, is batting .175 in his last 11 games, and that's including his 2-for-3 performance Friday. Ben Revere, meanwhile, has an 11-game hitting streak going and his average is .417 over that span.

The bats produced 10 hits and two walks on Friday but put up just three runs to show for it. On the year, the Phillies entered the game eighth in the league in average but 12th in runs per game.

Utley's return can only help, as Phillies second basemen hit below .200 in his absence. And although Utley went 0 for 5 on Friday night, he did get good wood on two balls, as his manager pointed out.

"Obviously, I had an opportunity to drive in some runs -- I wasn't able to do that," Utley said. "But the overall picture, I felt good. I feel like I can contribute, and we'll move on tomorrow."

So Utley, like his manager, insists he'll be fine. But how about the rest of the offense?

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with 8 homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253 with 24 HR, 57 RBIs and an .815 OPS.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.