Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had his first press conference since the season ended today at Citizens Bank Park, hitting on a number of topics. Here is some of what he had to say:
On his weight loss: “I tried on some of my sports coats and they were big on me. They dwarfed me.”
On the lineup: “When I look at our lineup, I hope I will be able to move my lineup around a little bit. I look at Polanco as a top of the lineup hitter in the two hole. He makes good contact, he puts the fat part of the bat on the ball as good as anybody on the team. He plays situational baseball and can move the runners. I look at Shane, and he’s the type of hitter sometimes that gives us some options. He will hit seven, six somewhere down in there. If you look at the players who we picked up we have some depth … We always talk about giving Rollins and Utley and even Polanco a rest every now and then. It depends on who we have on the field. That will dictate the lineup. I’m excited about our bench. We have versatility and can do some things.”
Adding Roy Halladay: “He’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. Cliff Lee may be a tad behind him. Of course, it would have been nice to have Halladay, Lee, Hamels, I’d be looking good. I might be buying more expensive furniture than me and the missus have been buying lately. Baseball is baseball .. I have my own opinions and suggestions, but like everyone else, I have a boss. The Phillies, over the last 2 or 3 years, have made good decisions. You get into a situation where you have to make decisions. I trust them. What we got is what we will play with until we see something we need to improve on.”
Did you campaign to keep Lee?: “I know what goes on and how things wind down. As far as that, I just voiced my opinion. Like I said, I’m not the guy making the final decision. At the same time, I look at it that I’m excited at our pitching staff going into this season. The pitching staff going into this season is a lot better than it was going into last year. That’s an upgrade, so we’re ready to go.”
Adding to bench: “I think our bench is much better. I think we can do a lot more things. Castro is not a guy who hits for a high average. He’s a contact hitter. He can handle the bat, he can bunt consistently, he can move the runners. He can play defense. When you put all those things together, our bench, we definitely got better. We got better in our backup catcher in Schneider. I like that acquisition, it’s very good … Polanco is a very good third baseman, very adequate. It’s a position that you need to have quick reaction. He’s got that. I’ve seen him play there before. He should be real good. Our starting lineup and our offense should be much better.”
On the bullpen: “Lidge and Madson will play a huge part in our bullpen. We have to get them back and get them 100 percent. We picked up two guys in Baez and Contreras and both of these guys I know. We have two guys if they’re sore, or stiff or have a headache, they’ll pitch and I know they’ll pitch. They are mentally tough guys. They are not going to go to the trainer or the doctor. That makes me feel good. Both of them can pitch two innings and they will take the ball whenever I want to give it to them … We’ve got to get JC Romero and we can always use two lefthanders in this league. We have to get the bullpen stabilized coming out of spring training. We always have somebody [unexpected] who picks it up and does a pretty good job for us. That always happens and that can happen this year. I consider our bullpen very productive if we can get Lidge back.
On Halladay going deep into games: “I haven’t talked to him at all. I left him a message at Christmas and told him he didn’t have to call back if he was caught up in things. I don’t need to talk to Haladay. I’m just going to give him the ball every five days and tell him to go get 'em … He likes to pitch. He likes to throw his game. He’s my kind of pitcher.”
On the World Series: “If you go back and look and followed us playing the Rockies and the Dodgers, we played real good. We didn’t really play as good as we can against the Yankees. It might have been because of their bullpen and their pitching. We ran into a situation in the World Series with how it went, the Yankees were a well-balanced team with their offense. At the end, Rivera did what he’s been doing all these years. We can play better and we can pitch better offensively and defensively. I felt like in the ones they beat us, they were like a step ahead of us. We were always chasing them and trying to catch up. They were always ahead of us … It was who got the breaks and they got the good breaks. We can beat them. At the end of the World Series last year when I talked to our team, I told them that I feel like we owe the Yankees one … They got us.”
On the pitching staff: “Our pitching is really cleared up. We have six guys and with some of the guys we’ve invited. We will put Contreras in there to get him some length, but he will probably fall into the bullpen. We want to put him as a starter in spring training to build him up.” Manuel said the team has about 8-9 potential starters heading into spring training, some will fall to the bullpen, others will go to the minors.
On J.A. Happ: “He should feel real good about himself. He sits right there in the rotation. He’s going to pitch on a regular basis. He has to pitch himself out of that. He will have to hold his own … Last season was not a fluke. He was a big reason why we got there and won some games. He’s going to be a big part of our rotation.”
On Cole Hamels: “Scott Sheridan said Hamels has been working out very well this winter. He’s been doing a lot of work. Going into spring training, we will definitely from my standpoint, get Cole in spring training to catch his curveball earlier and do more with it. He can throw a curveball. Consistency is the biggest thing with it. I’ve always told him, ‘I used to tell you to throw more curveballs. You used to get by’ … I didn’t really push him. If he gets more consistent, he’ll get lefthanded hitters out better. That will make his changeup and his fastball better when he comes inside. Lefthanded hitters have good success off him. That’s one of the big things about his pitching. The big thing is he has to improve his curveball. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s his curveball or if he comes up with a slider.”
On the winter: “I played a lot of golf, did some fishing. Kept to myself … After about a week you want to come back to the ballpark. I was ready to start the season. My winter, I enjoyed it. At the same time, I’m very anxious to get back to work to get the season started.”
On the Yankees: “We can play with the Yankees. We could have beaten the Yankees but we didn’t … That give us more determination and everything. We definitely want to get back to the World Series. I know that. I know we want to go back to the World Series and win it. It’s hard to go two years in a row to win the World Series. We got there but didn’t get it done. This year, we’re going to key on that. We’re going to keep our same philosophy.”
On his health and weight loss: “I feel very good. I worked out at Golds Gym in Winter Haven. I used to spend an hour and a half or two hours a day, on the treadmill, the bike. I would do weights, a lot of repetition instead of heavy weights. I feel very good. I feel a lot better than I did when I weighed 286. I looked at a picture and my stomach was over my belt. I had a pretty big gut. I definitely have more energy, my knees feel a heck of a lot better. I can move quicker and still hit a golf ball pretty good too. The other day I weighed 228.
On talking to Cliff Lee after the trade: “Right after he was traded, I called him. He wanted to stay with us. He was definitely disappointed. He liked everything about us. He liked Philadelphia. He liked the fans. He liked our team. He said we had a good attitude and wanted to win. He didn’t have nothing but good to say about us. It was real tough [call to make].”