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Charlie's Indians were boppers


Charlie's Indians were boppers
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was around some great hitters during his days with the Cleveland Indians as a manager and hitting coach.

Manny Ramirez hit .351 in 2000. Albert Belle drove in 148 runs in 1996. Roberto Alomar batted .336 in 2001. Jim Thome drilled 49 home runs in 2001.

"Our teams in Cleveland loved to hit," Manuel said. "They'd take more [batting practice] than we do here, maybe twice more ... or even three times more. When I think about it, they knew how to hit.

"They were the best high fastball-hitting team I've ever seen. I wish I had film. I'd show you how they'd smoke the hell out of them."

Don't get the wrong idea.

Manuel doesn't miss those teams or what they stood for. If anything, that crew has made him appreciate what he has in Philadelphia.

"I worked with almost all of those hitters there, and it was career-oriented," he said. "All those guys thought about was, the better I do, the more money I'm going to make.

"This team here, we have guys who love to play and want to play the whole game out. They're thinking about winning. We were a different team. This team has more concentration. They have more of a winning attitude.

"We have some guys on the field who really love to play Baseball, who love to play the game the way it's supposed to be played."

Manuel never names names in instances like this.

But everyone knows Chase Utley is one of those guys.

"Chase is still getting here at 12:30 [for a 7 p.m. game]," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said recently.

It's more than that, though. It's the way they battle back. It's the positive words Manuel overhears. It's the vibe he gets in the dugout.

"We get down in a game but we can come right back up," he said. "To me, that's the resilient part. That's what makes us dangerous. That's something that we talk about all the time. It's part of chemistry, attitude, determination. What happens is they look at it like they're not going to give at-bats away. They know we still have a chance and they're going to play all 27 outs. Excellence creates success. We definitely have players that feel that way, and they keep right on going."

WILL MADSON BE

THE CLOSER ONE DAY?

Ryan Madson was supposed to be a starter. That's all he knew.

During his time in the minor leagues from 1998-2003, he started 121 of the 123 games in which he pitched.

Then he got his chance with the Phillies . After coming out of the bullpen 52 times in 2004 (he did make one start), he didn't start a single game in 2005. Then, the club gave him his chance in 2006 when he started 17 games.

Not good. Although he was 8-5 as a starter, his ERA was 6.28. He had a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.78, and opponents hit .329 against him.

Since then, he's only come out of the bullpen, and the results have been much better.

So much better that he worked his way into being the setup man last year and is good enough, Manuel said, to be a closer.

"Madson has the stuff and the mentality to be a closer," Manuel said. "I think with the experience he got the last couple years and the way he's throwing the ball and with his talent ? his fastball has been really good since the end of August. He definitely has the talent."

Madson's velocity was up significantly in the latter part of the 2008 season, something pitching coach Rich Dubee said has been a key to his effectiveness.

"He used to throw 92-95," Dubee said. "Now he's a tick higher. You love power. He's got power and separation. He'll throw 96, then a 79-mph changeup. That's a tough combination, especially throwing a cutter that's 91-92."

But Dubee said other things have factored into Madson's improvement: Intangibles that have pushed him along.

"Some of it, I think, is understanding his delivery and a big part of it is better preparation," Dubee said.

When Madson was first moved to the bullpen, he still dreamed of being a starter. Then he began to have some success as a reliever and started to feel more comfortable there, and he's shelved thoughts of joining the rotation.

But that's not the case with being a closer. He'd love to do it, given the chance.

"Definitely," he said.

With Brad Lidge out of commission for a while with inflammation in his right knee, Madson got the ball in Monday's save situation, and he finished it out with ease.

Madson, though, was still eager to get Lidge back.

"Without him, everybody [had to] step up," Madson said.

amanda.housenick@mcall.com

610-820-6187

FIRE AND ICE IN THE NL EAST

FIRE

JORGE CANTU

Florida Marlins

The third baseman is bringing consistency and power. He's hitting .358 (24-for-67) with five doubles and seven home runs. Over his last four games, he's hitting .500 with four long balls and 12 RBIs. He's had multiple hits in nine of 18 games.

ICE

KENSHIN KAWAKAMI

Atlanta Braves

The 33-year-old right-hander hardly resembles what a Braves starter has been in the last decade. He's 1-3 with a 7.06 ERA in four starts. He has given up five homers and 11 walks in 21 2/3 innings. He has yet to make it into the seventh inning.

ON DECK

MONDAY-TUESDAY

Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals

Two of the American League Central's best meet for a quick, two-game series. On Monday, the Chicago White Sox face Kansas City phenom Zack Greinke, who's 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA. Pitching for Chicago will be Bartolo Colon, who's 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA. Both games are 8:10 starts.

NUMBERS GAME

19

Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino's number of plate appearances per strikeout, making him one of the hardest players in the league to fan. It's second best in the National League, behind only the Dodgers' James Loney, who strikes out just once every 24.3 plate appearances.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

"Our park gets a bad rap. The ball jumps in a lot of places. ? It bothers me. It's not the park. Our pitchers are just going through a rough stretch."

IAN KINSLER

Rangers second baseman told ESPN the Magazine about Rangers Ballpark in Arlington


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 5, 2009

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