Loss does little to ease Manuel's mind
Manager concerned after Phillies lose for 10th time in 12 games
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- On the field Saturday after the Phillies' 10th loss in 12 games, Chase Utley, Pedro Feliz, Carlos Ruiz and Greg Dobbs were among those who participated in batting practice.Inside a solemn Bright House Field clubhouse, manager Charlie Manuel leaned back for a quiet chat with Most Valuable Player Award-winning shortstop Jimmy Rollins. That morphed into an animated hitting discussion with Rollins and, later, Geoff Jenkins. A few lockers over, Shane Victorino silently gathered himself after a 15-minute closed-door meeting with Manuel. That followed an 0-for-4 performance in the afternoon's 11-2 pounding -- before a record Bright House Field crowd of 10,178 -- in which the excitable center fielder played all nine innings. Even the first positive performance from likely fifth starter Adam Eaton -- three scoreless innings -- and progress in a Minor League game from Kyle Kendrick couldn't shake the carryover from Manuel's glum mood. "I'm not totally happy," Manuel said. "I'm glad Eaton got some people out and Kendrick pitched good, but overall we have to play better. We can play better and we've got a long ways to go." What's wrong? "It's a combination of everything," Manuel said. The Phillies mustered just five hits off Twins' likely No. 5 starter Kevin Slowey and relievers Glen Perkins, Dennys Reyes, Pat Neshek and Casey Daigle, and they also continued to give up runs. Manuel said on Friday that he wanted to gather the team together to express his frustration with the team's approach, even in meaningless games. He said he's not upset, just concerned. "I'm not angry," Manuel said before the game. "It's just letting them know we're two weeks out and we definitely haven't been playing like we're capable, and we have to be ready. We have to be ready mentally and physically when we leave here. I'm going to talk to our guys, probably in the next couple of days." His message will be likely to what he said to Victorino, and be simple: the National League East must be earned, and the defender and its challengers are all at 0-0 on Opening Day.
If the Phillies want to repeat as division champions and last deep in the playoffs -- the team's mind-set must change.
It was suggested before the game that perhaps the team missed the leadership of the always boisterous Aaron Rowand, who never shied away from speaking his mind."I think Rowand has been missed and I believe in players policing themselves if they can," Manuel said. "Some guys can't police themselves or don't know how. If that's the case, somebody needs to police them." Though Rowand wore that uniform at times last season as a vocal leader, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jamie Moyer often led in more private ways. "Rowand talked more than them, but we've got guys in the locker room who can be that guy," Manuel said. While understanding that it's March 15, Manuel still doesn't like to see certain "guys that are too cool. There's a fine line between being relaxed and being complacent. We have something happening here, but it's nothing we can't take care of." That was said Friday, and nothing had changed Saturday. Manuel may have taken exception to Victorino's feelings on the matter. "Personally, I'm not too worried," Victorino said on Friday. "Yeah, it's upsetting for Charlie because he sees a team going out there and not really playing well. Our intensity is definitely not there. You watch how we play and I think that's frustrating to Charlie. The last 10-15 days you need to get in a grove so on Opening Day, you feel good at the plate. We're going to get there. No one is panicking here ... I'm not." Neither is Manuel, but he could be seeking a sense of urgency. After going 11-18 in Grapefruit League play in 2007, the team started off 4-11, then played catch-up all season. They made it, but Manuel may fear a repeat. A speech is coming soon. "I'll probably do it in a game someday and let everyone see," Manuel said.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.