Charlie to Yanks: We owe you one

Given a chance to step back and ponder the World Series defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees, Charlie Manuel decided one thing: His team can play better.
“It seemed like the patterns of the games, we were always trying to catch up,” the Phillies’ manager said. “It’s not like we were loafing. They got some good breaks. But we didn’t play our best baseball. We can beat them. At the end of the World Series, when I talked to the team, I told them, ‘We owe the Yankees one.’ They got us.”

He touched on a variety of topics:

Manuel said he would have preferred to have both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in his rotation, but said he understood the decision the Phillies’ front office made.
“Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball right now,” Manuel said. “Cliff Lee may be a tad behind. … Of course it would have been nice to have Halladay, Lee and [Cole] Hamels. I’d be looking good. As a matter of fact, I might buy more expensive furniture than the missus has been buying lately. Baseball is a business. I understand a lot of things. I have my own opinion and suggestions, but at the same time, I have a boss. I think from a business standpoint, the Phillies have definitely made good decisions. I trust them.”
Manuel called Lee after his trade from the Phillies to the Mariners, saying it was a “tough” conversation to have.
“He wanted to stay with us,” Manuel said. “He was disappointed. He said he liked everything about us. He liked Philadelphia. He liked the fans. He liked our team. He didn’t have nothing but good to say about us. But he was disappointed about the fact he couldn’t stay.”
Manuel is a big fan of the two additions through free agency to the Phillies’ bullpen, Danys Baez and Jose Contreras. Although the Contreras deal has not been officially completed, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said talks are continuing.
“We’ve got two guys, if they’re sore, stiff, or they have a headache, they’ll pitch,” Manuel said of Baez and Contreras. “And I know they’ll pitch. Both of these guys are mentally tough guys. If these two guys tell me they’re hurt, they’re hurt. And that makes me feel good. I know both of them could pitch two innings. And they’ll take the ball every time I want to give it to them. I know Baez will not turn the ball down. I was very happy when we got both of these guys.”
And so long as the team can eventually get Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero back healthy, Manuel expects decent production from his new-look relief corps.
“We have to get our bullpen stabilized coming out of spring training,” Manuel said. “Also, I say it every year, and it happens: We have somebody who always comes along, picks up, and does a pretty good job for us. I think the same thing can happen this year.
“I can see our bullpen being very productive, especially if we can keep Lidge healthy.”

The batting order

Manuel expects Placido Polanco to bat second. But that doesn’t mean Shane Victorino will bat at the bottom of the lineup all the time. And if Jimmy Rollins struggles as the leadoff hitter, Manuel said, Victorino could be inserted there.
“When I look at our lineup, I hope I’ll be able to move guys around some,” Manuel said. “I look at Polanco, he’s definitely a top-of-the-order hitter. He fits in the two hole. He makes good contact. He probably puts the bat on the ball as good as anybody on our team. He hits a lot of balls to the opposite field. He can play situational ball.
“I look at Shane, it’s not like he won’t hit sometimes at the top of the order because I think it gives us some options. He’ll probably either hit seventh, sixth.”

In reserve

 The bench is an area Manuel considers vastly improved from last season. The Phillies signed outfielder Ross Gload, infielder Juan Castro, and catcher Brian Schneider to solidify the bench.
Manuel said that if he can have more confidence in his reserve players, it could mean a few more scheduled days off for his regulars, like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
“If you look at the players we picked up this past season, we’ve got some depth with Gload and [Ben] Francisco in the outfield and Castro, the infielder. We always talked about giving Rollins and Utley and Polanco a rest every now and then. A lot of times I like to push them and let them play 162 games because I like to put the best possible team on the field. But at the same time, I’m excited about our bench because we have versatility and we can do some things.”

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or