Sandberg searching for positives with struggling Phillies

Ryne Sandberg is on the hunt for things to like about the Phillies. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Ryne Sandberg opened his first press conference as Phillies interim manager on Friday saying the team needed energy.

Now after the team went scoreless in the first two games, Sandberg wasn’t referring to the Phillies as lackluster.

“I see enthusiasm on the bench and guys getting after it,” Sandberg said after Saturday’s 5-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I see hustle on the bases even though (getting on base) was at a minimum.”

The Phillies had just three this and one walk in not solving Kershaw for eight innings and reliever Brandon League for the final frame.

No doubt Sandberg doesn’t want his team to be discouraged to begin his managerial tenure, so he is praising their enthusiasm.

He certainly can’t praise the offense or defense, although Cliff Lee in Friday’s 4-0 loss and Kyle Kendrick in Saturday’s defeat, both pitched well enough to keep the Phillies in the game.

Of course just being close hasn’t been good enough lately for a Phillies team that is 5-21 since the all-star break.

On Saturday the Phillies trailed just 2-0 before Juan Uribe’s three-run homer in the ninth put the game out of reach.

Right now Sandberg is looking for anything positive. He can’t bury this team because how they play down the stretch could help determine his future.

If Phillies went, say, 8-34 in the 42 games under Sandberg, that certainly wouldn’t be an argument in his favor to return.

He has stressed that these games matter and it’s not only for the players but the interim manager as well.

So look for him to try to give the team encouragement, not make too many comments about lackluster play and attempt to help the Phillies out of their funk.

Of course, competing against the Dodgers, who have won 42 of their last 50, has been a sobering experience.

“When facing the best right you get a gauge of where you are at,” Sandberg said.

The approximate gauge is miles apart.

Sandberg can’t let the Phillies drift even further. He has to hope that things can’t get any more difficult than facing Zack Greinke and Kershaw in consecutive starts. Of course the Dodgers starter on Sunday, Ricky Nolasco, isn’t any bargain to face either.

Still, Sandberg will do everything he can to make the Phillies feel good about themselves, although the only true cure is a few runs that could lead to a few wins.

These first two games have probably felt like two weeks to Sandberg. He’s hoping the team can regain its confidence soon enough or else the final 40 games could feel like 40 years.