Phillies don't respond to Beltran

February 17, 2008 9:14:21 PM PST
Maybe when Jimmy Rollins shows up, the Philadelphia Phillies will spar verbally with the Mets. One day after Carlos Beltran boasted that New York is the team to beat in the NL East, the defending division champions shrugged it off.

"Whatever. I don't care," pitcher Brett Myers said Sunday.

Beltran's prediction - a direct message to Rollins - came on the day newly acquired ace Johan Santana participated in his first workout with New York. The normally quiet Beltran was quite upbeat about the team's chances.

"Let me tell you this: Without Santana, we felt as a team that we have a chance to win in our division. With him now, I have no doubt that we're going to win in our division," Beltran said. "So this year, to Jimmy Rollins - we are the team to beat!"

Rollins stirred things up last year when he claimed the Phillies were the team to beat, even though they hadn't reached the postseason since 1993. He backed it up with an MVP season and the Phillies took advantage of an historic collapse to finish one game ahead of the Mets.

Since Rollins hasn't arrived for spring training just yet - the first full-squad workout is Tuesday - it was up to his teammates to fire back at Beltran.

No surprise, they took a pass.

"Not gonna happen," said All-Star Chase Utley, a classic old-school guy. "I got nothing for you. I'm boring. I try to stay out of trouble."

Utley wasn't offended by Beltran's statement, and agreed the addition of Santana certainly improved the Mets. "Adding him definitely helps them because he's one of the best pitchers around," Utley said. "In order to be successful, you have to have confidence. It's fun. It creates excitement."

The Phillies ended a long postseason drought with their late-season surge, but were swept by the Colorado Rockies in the division series. Simply going back isn't the goal now. This team won't be satisfied unless it wins the second World Series championship in franchise history.

"We definitely weren't happy with the way it ended last year. We weren't proud of that," Utley said. "We want to take it further and improve on that."

While the Mets and Phillies generate much of the attention, this isn't a two-team race in the East. The Atlanta Braves, who won 14 straight division titles before that unprecedented streak ended in 2006, can't be overlooked.

The Braves added Tom Glavine to an already solid starting rotation and might even get Mike Hampton back. Mark Teixeira gets a full season in Atlanta's lineup, which is still very formidable despite the loss of Andruw Jones.

"I don't like opposing those guys," pitcher Cole Hamels said. "I don't know how they're falling under the radar because they won it for so many years. But maybe it'll make it a little more smooth sailing for them. They can just go out and do their jobs."

Notes: INF Wes Helms reported to camp, leaving Rollins and INF Eric Bruntlett as the only notable absences. Helms' future is uncertain because the Phillies signed 3B Pedro Feliz to be the regular starter. Helms struggled in his first season in Philly and could be moved before the spring ends.


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