There should be some interesting conversations echoing through the visiting executive's luxury box at PNC Park tonight. That's where manager Charlie Manuel, suspended for tonight's game thanks to a verbal altercation with an umpire earlier this week, will watch the Phillies' game against the Pirates with assistant general manager Scott Proefrock.
Proefrock, the only executive travelling with the team, has been the Phillies public face throughout a chaotic week that continued today with the news that star second baseman Chase Utley will undergo surgery that the team expects will sideline him for approximately eight weeks.
Behind the scenes, there are strong indications that the Phillies are poring over the trade market in search of a player who will provide an offensive upgrade over utility men like Wilson Valdez, Juan Castro and Brian Bocock.
The Phillies are also planning on being without third baseman Polacido Polanco for the next three-to-four weeks as he recovers from chronic tendinitis in his elbow.
Infielders who could be available include Arizona's Kelly Johnson, Baltimore's Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada, the Mariners' Jose Lopez and the Indians' Jhonny Peralta.
The Phillies are also looking to upgrade their pitching staff, particularly their rotation, which has been without J.A. Happ, whose return from a strained elbow is still up in the air.
Proefrock did his best to downplay the Phillies' urgency. Of course, he is also one of the Phillies' chief negotiators, and certainly understands the value of maintaining a position of strength.
"We're always looking to improve the club," Proefrock said. "It's a continue process, and that hasn't changed. Maybe the focus for us is a little different. . ."
But. . .
"We're not the only team that has injuries," Proefrock said. "We have a tremendous amount of talent still on the field, and they need to step up and do their jobs."
Utley's thumb surgery will occur later today in New York City and will be performed by Dr. Andrew Weiland at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Proefrock declined to put a timetable on how long Utley will be sidelined, citing the need to wait until after the procedure is actually complete, but sources who are familiar with the procedure say a typical recovery is between one and two months.
Most position players fall in the latter portion of that timetable -- Andy LaRoche, for example, was back playing competitively after 7.5 weeks.
Although Placido Polanco's elbow condition is not believed to be as serious, the third baseman's prognosis has also yet to be determined, leaving the Phillies without two of their top hitters. Polanco saw Dr. David Altcheck today in New York, but the team does not have an update.
Manuel was suspended for tonight's game against the Pirates. The discipline comes as a result of his verbal altercation with home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor during the 10th inning of the Phillies' 9-6 win over the Pirates on Wednesday.
Manuel took exception to a pitch to Raul Ibanez that was either at the bottom edge of the strike zone or just below it. Bucknor, who some Phillies believe missed a call at first base the previous night, ripped off his mask and yelled toward the Phillies dugout after hearing someone - presumably Manuel - comment about the pitch. Manuel then emerged from the dugout and yelled for several moments an inch or two from the face of Bucknor. Toward the end of the one-sided argument, the brim of Manuel's hat appeared to strike Bucknor in the forehead. As Manuel walked off, Bucknor pointed to his head.
Major League Baseball issued a short release that read:
"Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has been suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for his aggressive arguing and inappropriate contact with Umpire CB Bucknor during the top of the 10th inning of his Club's Tuesday, June 29th game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Bob Watson, Vice President of On-Field Operations for Major League Baseball, made the announcement."