Phillies general manager Pat Gillick has studied the talent on his roster and sees a team more talented than the one last season that lost the National League wild-card lead with a week to play.
His top reason is simple: better pitching.
"We have more depth in our starting rotation," he said yesterday at Citizens Bank Park.
The rotation includes Freddy Garcia, Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton and Jamie Moyer.
It also includes Jon Lieber.
Lieber could be traded at some point for bullpen help, but so far the Phillies have found nothing close to what they consider a fair offer for him. Gillick said they will enter spring training with six starting pitchers in Clearwater, Fla., and said unless they get a fair offer they would open the season with six - which means somebody might move to the bullpen.
Let's just say the Phillies hope something happens before the April 4 season opener.
"It's difficult for clubs to give up those pieces," Gillick said about the lack of relief pitching available. "They're plugging one hole and opening another one. So you've got to find somebody that has excess, and there are very few clubs that have excess pitching. But we're not going to give somebody away."
Eaton's success certainly will be critical to the team's success. They signed him to a three-year, $24.5 million contract, which had many people in baseball scratching their heads. Eaton went 7-4 with a 5.12 ERA in 13 starts last season with Texas, but has had injuries in the past. He missed much of last season with a torn tendon in his right middle finger.
He said while he still feels some stiffness in the finger in cold weather, the finger is otherwise 100 percent.
"If I stay healthy, I'm fine," Eaton said. "I don't have any elbow issues anymore. The shoulder isn't an issue. I'm poised and ready to roll. Is there added pressure to perform? There's no added pressure, other than the pressure I put on myself."
Eaton said having six starters in camp shouldn't create awkwardness amongst them.
"I always wish everybody the best of luck," Eaton said. "The chips are going to fall where they are. We're just going to prepare ourselves for the season, regardless of where we may end up. I think that's the nature of the beast. There's always competition. And we hope not, but injuries are part of the game. Having six guys isn't a bad thing. When I hurt my finger last year, it was my last start of spring training.
"There are six guys for five spots and obviously something is going to change or somebody is going to move. But however the staff shapes up, I think it will be a good staff. If everybody stays healthy it's going to be a productive staff."
Rowand signs. The Phillies avoided salary arbitration with centerfielder Aaron Rowand when they agreed to a one-year, $4.35 million contract, which includes award and performance bonuses. Rowand declined a $3.25 million player option after the season, while the Phillies declined a $5 million club option.
Arbitration update. The Phillies exchanged salary figures with their three remaining salary arbitration eligible players: Chase Utley, Brett Myers and Geoff Geary. The Phillies offered Utley $4.5 million, while Utley is seeking $6.25 million. The Phillies offered Myers $5 million, while Myers is seeking $5.9 million. They offered Geary $750,000, while he is seeking $925,000.
The difference in Utley's figures might not matter as the parties could hash out a multiyear contract.
Dobbs claimed. The Phillies claimed infielder Greg Dobbs off waivers from Seattle. Dobbs, 28, split last season with triple-A Tacoma and Seattle. He hit .370 (10 for 27) with three doubles, one triple and three RBIs in 37 games for the Mariners. The Phillies have 38 players on their 40-man roster.