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.”

Hurts so good: Phillies win third straight with a wacky walkoff

Hurts so good: Phillies win third straight with a wacky walkoff

BOX SCORE

Brock Stassi's toe hurt.
 
Maikel Franco's ribs and head hurt.
 
Pain never felt so good.
 
The Phillies pulled off their most dramatic win of the young season when they rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, at chilly Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco completed a three-RBI night when he smacked a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single to right to give the Phillies the walk-off win. It was the Phillies' third straight win and fifth in the last seven games as they improved to 8-9 with a chance to sweep a series and even their record at .500 on Sunday afternoon.
 
Franco will be in the lineup.
 
But he might need a couple of Advil to get going.
 
After his game-winning hit, Franco was hilariously chased into right field by his euphoric teammates. The Phillies third baseman absorbed a beat down with Andres Blanco delivering a blow to the top of Franco's head.
 
"You see that -- boom!" Blanco said in the happy clubhouse after that game.  
 
Franco did more than see it.

He felt it.
 
"Whitey got me," he said, laughing and pointing to his head and ribs. "My body is screaming right now."
 
Across the clubhouse, Stassi was feeling Franco's pain. His foot got stepped on during the happy scrum.
 
"My toe is killing me," he said with a laugh.
 
Stassi, too, might need an Advil before Sunday's game. He has a good chance to be in the lineup at first base because Tommy Joseph seems like a candidate for a day off after a tough night. Joseph made a costly throwing error in the top of the 10th inning that helped the Braves take a 3-2 lead.
 
Stassi helped rescue the Phillies from that deficit. His 10th inning single was the first of three one-out hits that the Phils collected against Braves' closer Jim Johnson. With the bases loaded, Johnson made Odubel Herrera look bad with a swinging strikeout for the second out. That brought up Franco. New hitting coach Matt Stairs is constantly encouraging Franco to use the whole field and that's just what the cleanup man did in lacing a liner to the warning track in right.

"To right field! How 'bout that," manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
It was Franco's second single of the night. He would have been awarded a game-winning double if he had reached second base. But, alas, he was chased into right field.
 
In the clubhouse after the game, Franco was told by a club official that he could have had a double had he touched second.
 
Franco's eyes widened in disbelief.
 
"Ah, Mikey!" he said, scolding himself.
 
Then he laughed.
 
Across the clubhouse, Joseph could laugh about the miscue that saw him throw to an empty third base after a sacrifice bunt in the 10th. With everything moving fast, he mistook shortstop Freddy Galvis for a baserunner as Galvis streaked to cover third.
 
Joseph's error put a man on third and the Braves scored the go-ahead run on an infield hit.
 
The ironic part about Joseph's error was the Phillies played excellent defense -- Herrera and Aaron Altherr made great catches in the outfield and Galvis was Galvis at short -- until the 10th.
 
They pitched well, too, from starter Jerad Eickhoff's five innings of one-run ball to the stingy relief work of Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia and Pat Neshek. They teamed on three shutout innings.
 
With his top late-game tandem of Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris in need of a night off, Mackanin asked Edubray Ramos to close it out. Ramos struck out the first two batters in the ninth and was one out away from his first big-league save when Brandon Phillips unloaded on a hanging slider to tie the game at 2-2.
 
Ramos rebounded and got the final out of the inning. As he walked off the field, he covered his mouth with his glove and shouted. Best guess: He said a naughty word. But ultimately his teammates got him off the hook. Parts of it were pretty. Parts of it were ugly. But when the night was over, the Phillies had a win.
 
"It was really a wacky game," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We played well overall, then there was a flurry of activity at the end."
 
Mackanin reached for a bottle of water.
 
"I'm going to drink more of this Smart Water," he said. "It's a happy day."

Best of MLB: Gonzalez, Nationals beat Mets 3-1 for 6th straight win

Best of MLB: Gonzalez, Nationals beat Mets 3-1 for 6th straight win

NEW YORK -- Gio Gonzalez mentioned the tasty Latin food served in the visitors' clubhouse. And the airplanes that fly overhead. And the pretty features of the ballpark.

But if there's a real reason why the Washington lefty is so successful at Citi Field, he isn't saying.

"Any secrets?" he offered. "No."

Gonzalez pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning to win again at the Mets' stadium, and the Nationals beat New York 3-1 on a drizzly Saturday for their sixth straight victory (see full recap).

Contreras' slam powers Arrieta, Cubs to 12-8 win over Reds
CINCINNATI -- After a sputtering start, the Cubs' offense is finally rolling. And it's no surprise that they're breaking out at Great American Ball Park, a place that's just their style.

Wilson Contreras hit his first career grand slam and Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward added three-run shots on Saturday, powering Chicago to a 12-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Jake Arrieta (3-0) returned to the mound where he threw his second career no-hitter last April 21 and struggled mightily at the outset, giving up two homers in the first inning. Chicago's offense pulled him through with another homer-filled game at Great American Ball Park. Arrieta helped with an RBI triple (see full recap).

Homers by Mancini, Schoop carry Orioles past Red Sox 4-2
BALTIMORE -- Just when it appeared Steven Wright had finally gained command of his fluttering knuckleball, the Baltimore Orioles found their groove.

The result: Another early exit for the 2016 All-Star in Boston's 4-2 loss Saturday night.

Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop homered in succession off Wright, Jayson Aquino won his first big league start and the Orioles used one big inning to secure their fourth straight victory (see full recap).

Simmons belts grand slam to lead Angels past Blue Jays 5-4
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Andrelton Simmons hit a tiebreaking grand slam, Tyler Skaggs pitched into the eighth inning and the Los Angeles Angels held off the slumping Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 Saturday night.

Simmons cleared the bases in the third inning off Casey Lawrence (0-2) for his second career grand slam, helping the Angels snap a three-game losing streak and win for the second time in 11 games.

Skaggs (1-1) gave up a run in the first but settled down to hold the Blue Jays to five hits over the next six innings, getting the Blue Jays to hit into three double plays along the way. He was lifted after Ryan Goins doubled to lead off the eighth (see full recap).