Phillies like the sound of 'World Series champs'

February 18, 2009 1:19:47 PM PST
Charlie Manuel wrote his notes on a yellow piece of paper to make sure he didn't miss anything in his first speech to the team since the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. As usual, Manuel never looked down. He opened with a joke and ad-libbed the rest of the way. The basic message: Last year was fun. Let's do it again.

"He said, 'Last year is last year. It's cool to say we're world champions, but we have a job to do,"' reliever Scott Eyre said of the manager's speech.

The Phillies were on a field together Tuesday for the first time since their World Series victory parade down Broad Street in Philadelphia ended with a celebration at Citizens Bank Park.

They're proud and have a little extra swagger in their step, but their goal is to repeat.

"We have to avoid mental complacency," closer Brad Lidge said. "It's hard for a team to come back and win again. We have to work hard and keep the same hunger. The great thing about this team is these guys are determined and want to do it again, not just one year."

Expectations are high for the Phillies, especially because the team stayed intact. Only two players from the 25-man postseason roster - starting left fielder Pat Burrell and reserve outfielder So Taguchi - didn't return this spring. Raul Ibanez took Burrell's spot, upgrading the position defensively and giving the lineup a more consistent all-around hitter.

The starting rotation is strong and the bullpen is deep.

All the Phillies have to do now is show they're still as good as they look on paper.

"There's more pressure this year because now that we've done it, people expect it," Lidge said. "But pressure isn't necessarily a bad thing. Pressure can be good. For us, the tighter the games were last year, the better we played."

The Phillies hope for a fast start so they can be frontrunners instead of chasing teams in the division. They've needed comebacks in late September to overtake the New York Mets and win the NL East the last two years.

The Mets overhauled their bullpen, hoping to avoid another collapse. They added Francisco Rodriguez, who saved a record 62 games for the Los Angeles Angels last season, and J.J. Putz, an All-Star closer with Seattle in 2007.

"The way our division is, my guess is we won't have any leeway and sometimes that's not a bad thing," Lidge said. "Sometimes knowing you don't have any room for error can help you. Honestly, having to play like that in September helped when the playoffs came around because it felt like we were in the playoffs for a whole month already. No room for error sometimes is a good thing, but I'll take a 100-win season."

Manuel had some help in the clubhouse when the players gathered before the team's first full-squad workout. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who was promoted from assistant after Pat Gillick retired, addressed everyone first.

"Ruben starred today, really," Manuel said. "His message? It was about how good we played, to continue. Also he talked some about the fans, how they definitely backed us, pulled for us and looked at us as their team, the whole city of Philadelphia is on our side and not to be afraid to give something back to them, as far as attention, talking to them, those things, which is good, very good."

Then, it was Charlie's turn.

"I told a joke right off the bat to loosen things up and then I got away from my notes," he said.

Notes: All-Star 2B Chase Utley fielded grounders with the rest of the team and is ahead of schedule following hip surgery in November. Utley originally was projected to miss four to six months. Barring setbacks, he should be ready for opening day. 3B Pedro Feliz is taking a little longer to recover from back surgery that was supposed to sideline him two to three months. "Feliz might be on a longer leash than Utley, but I don't think he'll miss a whole lot of time," Manuel said. ... Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt checked into camp for his annual role of hitting instructor. Former CF Garry Maddox, who played with Schmidt on the 1980 championship team, also was in attendance. ... Manuel is leaving the team Wednesday to attend the funeral of Ted Uhlaender, a former teammate in Minnesota.

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