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News » Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-02-09


Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-02-09


Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-02-09
The Phillies hoisted the World Series trophy and were hailed in a long-awaited parade down Broad Street. A repeat performance won't be easy.

Winning back-to-back championships has not been done since the New York Yankees captured three straight titles from 1998 to 2000. A National League team has not won back-to-back World Series since Cincinnati's Big Red Machine in 1975-76. An NL team hasn't even won consecutive pennants since the Atlanta Braves of 1995-96.

The Phillies return the nucleus of their championship team, including slugger Ryan Howard, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley and ace pitcher Cole Hamels. But they have questions to answer, and several roster spots up for grabs.

Recently acquired Ronny Paulino will attempt to unseat incumbent Chris Coste as the No. 2 catcher behind Carlos Ruiz, but the most intriguing spring training competition will be a four-man battle for the No. 5 starter spot. The competitors are veteran Chan Ho Park, rookie left-hander J.A. Happ, reclamation project Kyle Kendrick and top prospect Carlos Carrasco.

"I'm looking forward to some of the competitions that will arise in spring training," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal.

"We've got our backup catcher competition, our fifth-starter competition, some bullpen competition. I'm getting excited about seeing guys perform because I know that we've built a situation now that all the players know we're built to win. This is not about developing players at the major league level. This is about putting players on the field to win, and you can learn a lot about a player when they're put in these situations."

There also will be the tricky business of staying motivated. After a thrilling run to the World Series that featured intense games with important consequences, several players joked that it would be difficult to avoid a letdown during the 2009 regular season.

"Frankly, I have a lot of faith in our guys," Amaro said. "A lot of people say, 'They won the world championship, and now they're just going to coast.' I don't think we have that kind of makeup on our club. I think there's continued expectations. They'll push each other. I think it's the kind of club that will clearly be disappointed if they don't get back to the dance again."

WHERE, WHEN: Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. First exhibition game is Feb. 25 against Pittsburgh.

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: RHP Carlos Carrasco, widely regarded as the Phillies' brightest pitching prospect, has electric stuff. Last season, he began to show the maturity to match it. He will have a chance to win the No. 5 starter job in spring training, even though he won't turn 22 until March 21 and has made only six career starts in Class AAA.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: RHP Ryan Madson emerged as the Phillies' setup man in September when he allowed one run in his final 14 appearances. Then, in the playoffs, he appeared in 11 of 14 games and registered a 2.13 ERA. But Madson's career has been marked by inconsistency, and the Phillies are counting on him more than ever.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Charlie Manuel was not the popular choice among fans when the Phillies named him their manager before the 2005 season. These days, though, he's beloved. That's what winning a World Series will do. Manuel also is one of only two managers to steer the Phils to back-to-back division titles (Danny Ozark had three straight from 1976-78). He's 354-294 in four years with the Phillies and ranks ninth on the franchise's all-time managerial wins list. But this season, Manuel will have a new bench coach by his side as Pete Mackanin replaces venerable Jimy Williams.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 10, 2009

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