WASHINGTON - Minutes after Ryne Sandberg held a brief team meeting to emphasize the magnitude of the next week, a Phillies public relations employee handed the manager a cellphone.
Sandberg scrolled down the screen. Then he marched to the visitors dugout at Nationals Park to face reporters.
He looked irritated.
"I'm fired up," Sandberg said. "Ready for another ball game to get ready to move in another direction. There was a lot to be learned from the series we had."
Larry Bowa, Sandberg's bench coach and confidant, agreed. His words, though, were more incendiary during a Tuesday morning interview with WPEN-FM (97.5). The 68-year-old baseball lifer characterized the Phillies' recent 4-7 homestand as one of the worst he ever witnessed. He issued critiques of the Phillies' young players - specifically, Domonic Brown.
For 10 minutes, Bowa served as a voice for dissatisfied fans.
"They're very frustrated," Bowa said. "I think they're more frustrated at the way we lose. And they should be. That's not big-league baseball, what we've been doing at home. That's not big-league baseball."
Sandberg said he was unaware of Bowa's comments. He was relayed some of them and did not feel the urge to disagree. The manager hired Bowa to help with all strategy matters and to act as disciplinarian. This was one public instance for the bombastic Bowa.
The vibe after Monday's 11-2 loss was "bad," Bowa said. The team took a train to Washington afterward.
"It was pretty quiet," Bowa said. "It should be. You have players here in the big leagues who aren't playing like big-leaguers. I understand; it's a long season and there are periods of time when I played and things went bad. But we're going into June. And there are some players right now who need to pick it up. There's no question about that."
Brown is one. His .576 OPS ranked 171st out of 175 qualified hitters before Tuesday's games. Bowa wondered how Brown arrives at the ballpark with an "upbeat" attitude.
"I don't know how he does that, because if it were me, I'd be going nuts right now," Bowa said. "The big thing you have to be concerned about is if you take away a six-week period from the equation [in Brown's career], the numbers aren't very good."
Bowa said Sandberg has been "pretty patient" with Brown, who started again Tuesday. "I see flashes every now and then," Sandberg said.
The players are dedicated to extra work, Bowa said, but he wondered whether many of the roster's shortcomings cannot be cured.
"A lot of this has to do with instinct," Bowa said. "If you don't have good baseball instincts, you can't teach instincts. If you don't have it by the time you get to the big leagues, you're not going to get it. I don't care how much you practice. And there are some people right now showing they don't have the baseball instincts that maybe we thought they had."
Marquis signs on
Desperate for some semblance of pitching depth, the Phillies signed 35-year-old righthander Jason Marquis to a minor-league deal on Tuesday.
Marquis, who has made 309 career starts in the majors, will report to extended spring training. He pitched for San Diego in 2013 and posted a 4.05 ERA in 20 starts.
Marquis underwent Tommy John surgery last July. He could serve as a rotation replacement after the July 31 trade deadline if the Phillies deal any of their current starters.
Darin Ruf was injured when he slid into the left-field wall Tuesday night at triple-A Lehigh Valley. He was removed from the game in the first inning with a sprained left wrist and a lacerated right knee. . . . The Phillies optioned righthander Phillippe Aumont to Lehigh Valley and recalled righthander Ethan Martin in a bullpen shuffle. Martin, who was sidelined by shoulder inflammation, has yet to recoup his fastball velocity. But the Phillies needed a fresh arm. . . . Cody Asche (left hamstring strain) will not be ready to return Saturday when eligible. . . . Chase Utley maintained a significant lead - 530,289 votes - at second base in National League all-star voting.