Phillies feel like they let Charlie Manuel down

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Phillies feel like they let Charlie Manuel down

The Phillies were expected to contend in the NL East when the 2013 season began. However, the team has completely fallen apart since the All-Star break.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. took action on Friday afternoon, announcing that manager Charlie Manuel was relieved of his duties and that Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg will serve as Manuel’s replacement effective Friday night (see story).

Perhaps this is the wake-up call the Phils need to snap out of their current funk.

“I sure hope so,” second baseman Chase Utley said prior to Friday’s matchup with the Dodgers. “It obviously shows that we are not playing good baseball.

“We all know we haven’t been playing great. We’ve had some stretches. We’ve played OK, but lately we haven’t been getting the job done. Whatever it takes to get us to focus more.”

Utley first played for Manuel in the 2004 season, when Manuel was hired as the club’s 51st manager. Utley was 23 then, playing behind Placido Polanco at second base.

Utley would go on to take over full-time duties at second in June 2005, when Polanco was traded to the Detroit Tigers. He then established himself as one of the best-hitting second basemen in the National League, and he credits Manuel for that.

“Charlie is the man that gave me an opportunity to play,” Utley said. “I owe a lot to Charlie Manuel. … I think we are all a little upset and a little sad. It’s not a usual thing to see that guy you played for not behind the batting cage watching batting practice.”

Manuel, the winningest manager in team history, won 780 games with the Phillies and led the team to the 2008 World Series title.

Cole Hamels, who was the 2008 World Series MVP, said Manuel served as a father figure to all of his players.

“All of us grow up in a certain way,” Hamels said. “We leave home and we come from all different cities and I think Charlie was kind of like our father to a lot of us. He was a fatherly figure. He really enjoyed watching us have success.

“When we weren’t playing at our best, he always came around and encouraged us. He never had anything negative to say. He always wanted us to be the best we could.

“Knowing that and every good game I had, every bad game I had, he always came up to me no matter what and really told me ‘go get 'em and keep doing what you’re capable of doing.’ So that’s kind of what you want to hear sometimes -- not all the time -- but I’ll really take that and notch that away as a really good memory.”

Third baseman Michael Young, who is in his first season with the Phils, was disappointed his time with Manuel was cut short.

“It’s unfortunate any time someone you really enjoy playing for, enjoy being around, is no longer with you on a day-to-day basis,” Young said.

“For us as players, I know me personally, I loved playing for Charlie. I have a ton of respect for what he’s done in the game and for what he can bring to a baseball team. Going forward, I’m look forward to playing for Ryne now.”

Sandberg will take over a Phillies team that has gone 5-19 since the All-Star break. He spent the previous two seasons as manager of Triple A Leigh Valley before joining the Phils’ big club as third-base coach this past September.

Sandberg said Friday that the Phillies have shown signs of “lackadaisical play” as of late.

“I’m as guilty as everybody else is,” Hamels said. “We have to focus a lot more in what we have to do out on the field because we have to do it the right way. Charlie preached that but we just weren’t doing it. We’re as guilty as everybody. We have to be responsible for being out there and playing the game of baseball the Philly way and the way that we know how. We have to pull for each other to do so.”

When asked if the Phils’ poor play contributed to the firing of Manuel, Utley didn’t pull any punches.

“Charlie didn’t strike out,” Utley said. “Charlie didn’t make any errors. All Charlie did was come to the park everyday and ask us to win.”

So now Sandberg will have to find a way to reinvigorate the Phillies over the final 42 games of the season.

Replacing Manuel will be no easy task. Manuel helped the Phils to five consecutive NL East titles from 2007-11 before the club took drastic steps back in 2012 and 2013.

“He (Charlie) said the game goes on, but that doesn’t make it any easier," Utley said.

Hamels feels the Phils let Manuel down and knows they have work to do moving forward with Sandberg at the helm.

“For a sense because of what he means to us and how he’s been around, yeah we let down not only him, but we let down the organization,” Hamels said. “We let down the fans, but ultimately we let each other down. That’s why we really have to get back up and discover who we are and what we are playing for and go out there and do it.”

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff pitched two innings, allowed a hit, a run, walked one and struck out two in his spring debut on Monday.

Afterward, manager Pete Mackanin was asked what he believed Eickhoff's ceiling was.

"He's a pretty darn good pitcher right now," Mackanin said.

Indeed, he is.

In his first full season in the majors last year, the 26-year-old right-hander led the Phillies' starting staff in ERA (3.65), starts (33) and innings pitched (197 1/3).

He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining three pretty good pitchers named Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. He walked just 1.92 batters per nine innings and that was fourth-best among NL starters.

"Eickhoff is the kind of guy you can count on," Mackanin said. "He throws strikes. He knows what he's doing."

Eickhoff is intent on building on last year's success in 2017. The guy has a Halladay-like work ethic. He arrived in Clearwater on Feb. 1 and got right to work. After his two innings of work on Monday, he put in a couple of hours in the weight room and on a back field running.

"I just have to continue working," he said. "I have a very high standard for myself as a lot of us in here do. We want to be the best players that we can be."

Eickhoff is working on improving his changeup this spring and his overall goal is to make every start -- as he did last season.

"That's the priority -- make every start," he said. "That's always a priority for me.

"I'd also like to incorporate the changeup a little more and use my slider and curveball and not get heavily reliant on one or the other, which happened several times last year and I think got me into trouble at times. So incorporating both for the duration of the season and just being more crisp with execution and location is my goal.

"I'm always looking to get better. I think the sky is the limit. I'm going to continue working, whether it's being Greg Maddux-esque with command or having a good breaking ball, or throwing a changeup like Maddux and guys like that did. There's always something I'm working on and trying to develop and sharpen up."

Eickhoff lines up to start the second game of the regular season behind projected opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson.

The game
The Phillies lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-2. The Phils are 2-2 on the spring.

Maikel Franco had two hits, including his third homer of the spring. It was a long drive to left field on a 1-2 fastball. He also had a single to right field.

"The thing I like early in the spring from him is he's going deeper into counts," Mackanin said. "I think he's working toward a good year this year."

Stassi impresses
Non-roster player Brock Stassi, a candidate to win a job as a reserve first baseman and outfielder (see story), did not play in the game. He, however, has a single, double and homer in the first three games.

Mackanin gushed about Stassi’s defense when asked about it Monday.

"He's one of the best first basemen I've seen in a real long time," Mackanin said. "He has no need to improve on his defense and I like the way he swings the bat. He's a real solid baseball player so he's a guy I really want to get a good look at."

Pitching matters
Starting pitchers Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are both projected to pitch at Triple A. Both have been slowed early in camp because of health reasons, but are progressing well. Thompson has a sore right wrist and Eflin is recovering from a pair of surgeries to address tendinitis in both knees.

Both pitchers will continue to throw in the bullpen this week and ramp up to live batting practice next week. There is plenty of time for both pitchers to get their arms ready to open the season. However, the Phillies may decide to take a cautious approach with Eflin and let him build some more strength in his knees before they turn him loose. He could stay in Florida for a couple of extra weeks before joining the Triple A club.

Up next
The Phillies host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Clay Buchholz will make his first start of the spring. Here is the Phillies' posted starting lineup for the game:

1. Freddy Galvis, SS
2. Howie Kendrick, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, DH
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Chris Coghlan, RF
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Scott Kingery, 2B

MLB Notes: Josh Hamilton undergoes knee surgery

MLB Notes: Josh Hamilton undergoes knee surgery

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton has had another surgery on his balky left knee, ending any chance of the 2010 AL MVP making the Texas Rangers' opening day roster.

The arthroscopic procedure Monday was to repair some damaged meniscus cartilage in his left knee. There were no issues with the surgically repaired ACL in that knee.

Hamilton had left spring training in Arizona and returned to Houston for the second time in less than a week to be examined by Dr. Walt Lowe, who also performed Hamilton's season-ending surgery last June.

The latest knee procedure is the 11th in Hamilton's career, and the third since the 35-year-old slugger last played in the majors in 2015.

Hamilton, in camp on a minor league contract, faces six weeks of rehabilitation before he will be able to start running again.

Orioles: Bourn broke finger during football drill
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Baltimore outfielder Michael Bourn hasn't played football since his sophomore year in high school. But it's a pigskin injury that's preventing him from playing this spring for the Orioles.

On Friday, the speedy 34-year-old broke his right ring finger catching a football at a workout. Bourn, who signed a minor league contract on Feb. 20, will be out for four weeks, making it difficult for him to be ready for Baltimore's April 3 opener. He'll make $2 million if he's put on the 40-man roster.

Bourn has difficult competition. Another veteran major league outfielder, Craig Gentry, signed two days before, plus the Orioles want to take long looks at Rule 5 outfielders Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez. Joey Rickard, a Rule 5 pick who played with the team last season, is also a serious contender.

Because he signed late, Bourn hadn't played.

"I was ready to go and pretty much ready to get into games the next couple days and now I've got to wait a about four weeks to heal. I want it to heal correctly but I want to push it, too. There's really nothing I can do about it," he said. (see full story)

Indians: Kipnis sidelined by shoulder injury
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has a rotator cuff strain and will stop throwing for a couple days.

Kipnis got a cortisone shot on Saturday, and manager Terry Francona didn't sound very worried about the situation.

"If it was during the season we wouldn't do anything," Francona said before Sunday's spring game against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa. "There's so much time to get ready that to kind of put a Band-Aid on it now didn't seem to make sense."

The 29-year-old Kipnis hit .275 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs last season, helping Cleveland to the AL Central title. He added four more homers and eight RBIs in the playoffs as the Indians made it all the way to the World Series before losing to the Cubs in seven games.

Kipnis had been on a shoulder program.

"I would say probably eight out of 10 guys, as they get their arms loose, you feel something," Francona said. "You throw through stuff and you get through the aches and pains of getting back, but then when there is some history there, you just try to use good judgment.

"He can do all his cardio and everything and all that stuff, but throwing is shut down for four to five days. I don't think he's going to hit today."

The Indians also announced left-hander Tim Cooney will be sidelined for 10 to 12 weeks because of a muscle strain in his arm. Cooney went 1-0 with a 3.16 ERA in six starts with St. Louis last season and was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals in November.

"Originally, they thought it was forearm," Francona said. "It's lower than that. By all accounts, it is an extremely unique area."