Sandberg's goal: Create Phillies 'team concept'

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Sandberg's goal: Create Phillies 'team concept'

Oftentimes when a new manager takes over a ballclub in the middle of a season, it’s difficult to make too many changes. Generally, the interim manager tries to keep the ship afloat before stepping back to make an assessment.

Rarely does a manager come in and make a lot of big changes. That’s especially the case for a manager getting his first chance in the big leagues.

But Ryne Sandberg isn’t the typical mid-season replacement. A Hall-of-Fame player, Sandberg has a little more cachet than most first-time managers and has used his influence appropriately.

For instance, Sandberg has changed the report time for the players at the ballpark to 3 p.m. In the past the report time used to be a bit later, but Sandberg puts such a premium on pre-game workouts that he wants the players at the park to prepare.

Sandberg also wants all of the players standing in front of the dugout during the National Anthem. It’s a small thing, but it makes a difference in the aesthetics. The Phillies look like a team when all of the players are standing in the same area for the anthem. Previously, the rule wasn’t so hard and fast. With Charlie Manuel, some players were standing in front of the dugout for the anthem and others were in the outfield stretching or running strides to stretch out before the game.

Again, it’s a little change and it’s not significant in the ultimate scheme of things. But it is a show of team unity.

“For me as a manager, I stressed getting back to the basics,” Sandberg said before Wednesday’s game against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. “I’ve preached that and talked at it. It’s a work ethic pregame and working on things. It is chatter on the bench. It’s asking the guys to hustle at all times and have a little hop in their steps and talking about the game that is there to be played and won every single day.”

Pre-game workouts, hustle and chatter on the bench are three of the hallmarks behind Sandberg’s early tenure as manager. Yet another of Sandberg’s tenets is for the veteran players to mentor the youngsters coming up with the team. The veterans should be the leaders, according to Sandberg, and he hasn’t minced words when explaining to players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, that he expects them to take strong leadership roles.

That’s the way it was when Sandberg was coming up with the Phillies and Cubs and Larry Bowa was mentoring him. Later, Sandberg helped show the way to players like Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston, among others.

In that regard, Sandberg hopes a pitcher like Lee, who may prefer to do things his own way and perhaps even apart from the team, takes a role as a leader.

“Cliff is a good pitcher and he’s a big part of the pitching rotation and he has good stuff,” Sandberg said. “But when you manage players you have individuals and one of my goals and concepts is to create a team atmosphere and a team concept. And to let Cliff go and do anything he wants to -- no chance.”

Sandberg says he told Lee of his expectations.

“I’ve had conversations with Cliff,” Sandberg said. “It goes back to trying to get the most out of Cliff and thinking about the team and thinking about his teammates and with the team concept.”

In the meantime, Sandberg says there really hasn’t been much of a change at all. There is just a different man in the manager’s seat. The message hasn’t changed all that much.

“We’ve been doing that all year -- the enthusiasm and the talking on the bench,” Sandberg said. “We did that as a coaching staff and we’ll continue to do that.”

Yankees 3, Phillies 2: Jeremy Hellickson shines; big roster meeting on deck

Yankees 3, Phillies 2: Jeremy Hellickson shines; big roster meeting on deck

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- With his second straight opening day start coming into focus, Jeremy Hellickson delivered his best outing of the spring on Friday.

The right-hander, two weeks shy of his 30th birthday, held the New York Yankees to five hits and a run over 6 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out three.

Hellickson was remarkably economical with his pitches, throwing just 75.

"I'll take that any time," he said.

So would Pete Mackanin.

"He was great," the manager said.

Hellickson will have one more tune-up -- Wednesday -- before his opening day start April 3 in Cincinnati.

"I'm ready," he said.

And that about says it all.

The game
The Phillies lost, 3-2, when reliever Michael Mariot gave up three hits and two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Tommy Joseph had a pair of hits, including the Phils' only extra-base hit, a double.

Freddy Galvis made a couple of nice plays in the field.

"He just shines out there," Mackanin said.

Joseph, the Phillies' first baseman, was involved in a humorous play in the fifth inning. Hellickson made a pickoff attempt on Aaron Hicks at first base. Hicks dived back toward the base but seemed to get stuck in the infield dirt and came up about a foot short of the bag. Joseph, sensing Hicks would easily beat the throw, didn't immediately notice that Hicks was grounded short of the bag and by the time he did, Hicks was able to scurry to the bag.

As fate would have it, the next two batters hit tough ground balls to Joseph's right and he made close plays at second both times. He fired what looked like a 90 mph fastball at shortstop Galvis on the first one. Galvis even seemed shocked how quickly the ball got on him.

"We laughed about the pickoff play," Hellickson said. "But he made two really good plays after that. I told him he totally redeemed himself. That was funny, though."

Saunders OK
Michael Saunders was hit on the right hand by a pitch in the fifth inning. He left the game for precautionary reasons, but was fine. Just a bruise.

"Glancing blow," Mackanin said.

Roster ruminations
The Phillies leave Florida in a week. They have thinned their roster several times and did so again on Friday, optioning pitcher Jake Thompson and outfielder Tyler Goeddel to the minors and reassigning three others (see story).

An even clearer picture of the roster will begin to emerge Sunday as several non-roster players can opt out of their contracts if they are not added to the 40-man roster. That list includes catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday, reliever Sean Burnett and outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Mackanin said the team would have a personnel meeting on Sunday.

"By Monday we should have some more news," he said.

Still unsettled are the bench and bullpen. Typically the team would have five men on the bench and seven in the bullpen, but Mackanin said the possibility of a four-man bench and an eight-man bullpen would be discussed.

"I don't want to do that, especially in the National League, but we're talking about it," he said.

The Phillies have a tight 40-man roster, and that could help Andrew Knapp's chances of making the club as a backup catcher/first baseman. He is already on the 40-man roster. Even if Knapp makes it, the Phils could bring along Hanigan or Holaday as a third catcher.

"That's a possibility," Mackanin said. "We discussed it at the last meeting. We're going to discuss it again on Sunday.

"We're trying to come up with the best plan for when we break, and a lot of it has to do with the non-roster players. If we make a move, someone has to come off (the 40-man roster) and that's an issue."

Up next
The Phillies travel to Fort Myers on Saturday to play the Red Sox. The game shapes up as another audition for a spot in the Phillies' bullpen as Alec Asher, Adam Morgan and Joely Rodriguez are the scheduled pitchers.

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With a week to go before they leave Florida, the Phillies made several roster moves on Friday morning.

Outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who spent all of last season in the majors, was optioned to the minor leagues.

Pitcher Jake Thompson, who made 10 starts in the majors for the Phillies last season, was also optioned to the minors. He is expected to open the season in the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Goeddel, 24, joined the Phillies organization in December 2015 after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He had originally been a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must spend an entire season in the majors or be exposed to waivers and offered back to their original club. The Phillies kept Goeddel all of last season, fully securing his rights, but he received only 213 at-bats and hit just .192 with four homers and 16 RBIs.

The news on Goeddel was not completely surprising. The wintertime additions of outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders had made Goeddel a long shot to make the team.

"I knew going into camp I was going to have to earn my spot," he said. "There's a lot of guys in here that have been playing well. Whatever happened, happened."

Goeddel needs to recoup some at-bats in the minor leagues. The question is: where? The Phillies have three top outfield prospects -- Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens -- who will require regular playing time at Triple-A. It's possible that Goeddel could open the season at Double-A.

Team officials discussed that possibility with him.

"They want me to get more at-bats," Goeddel said. "That's the main thing. Only getting 200 in your age-23 season is not enough.

"They said there's a chance I'm at Reading. I'm not too happy about that but you can't control it. That's where their most openings are and most consistent playing time.

"I want to play every day. It was tough last year playing sparingly. Getting at-bats is going to be great. Obviously, I wish it was up here. But at the end of the day, you can't control it."

Goeddel is still on the 40-man roster and as long as he stays on it can come back to the majors quite easily if a need arises.

"They said that," Goeddel said. "Last year (pitcher Alec) Asher started at Double-A and was called up. They said that in there. They just want me to get at-bats. That was their main thing."

Thompson could be one of the first to return to the majors if a need arises in the starting rotation.

The 23-year-old right-hander was one of five prospects that the Phillies acquired from Texas for Cole Hamels in July 2015. He went 11-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts at Triple-A last season and 3-6 with a 5.70 ERA with the big club.

The Phils also reassigned pitcher Dalier Hinojosa, catcher Logan Moore and infielder Hector Gomez to minor-league camp.