Manuel, who has spent this off-season golfing and fishing while losing close to 60 pounds, emerged from his baseball exile yesterday to deliver his state of the Phillies' off-season address at Citizens Bank Park.
He touched on a variety of topics.
Manuel said he would have preferred to have both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in his rotation, but said he understood the decision the Phillies' front office made.
"Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball right now," Manuel said. "Cliff Lee may be a tad behind. . . . Baseball is a business. I understand a lot of things. I have my own opinion and suggestions, but at the same time, I have a boss. I think from a business standpoint, the Phillies have definitely made good decisions. I trust them."
Manuel called Lee after his trade from the Phillies to the Mariners, saying it was a "tough" conversation to have.
"He wanted to stay with us," Manuel said. "He was disappointed. He said he liked everything about us. He liked Philadelphia. He liked the fans. He liked our team. He didn't have nothing but good to say about us. But he was disappointed about the fact he couldn't stay."
Manuel is a big fan of the two additions through free agency to the Phillies' bullpen, Danys Baez and Jose Contreras. Although the Contreras deal has not been completed, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said talks are continuing.
"We've got two guys, if they're sore, stiff, or they have a headache, they'll pitch," Manuel said of Baez and Contreras. "And I know they'll pitch. Both of these guys are mentally tough guys. If these two guys tell me they're hurt, they're hurt. And that makes me feel good. I know both of them could pitch two innings. And they'll take the ball every time I want to give it to them. I know Baez will not turn the ball down. I was very happy when we got both of these guys."
And so long as the team can eventually get Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero back healthy, Manuel expects decent production from his new-look relief corps.
"We have to get our bullpen stabilized coming out of spring training," Manuel said. "Also, I say it every year, and it happens: We have somebody who always comes along, picks up, and does a pretty good job for us. I think the same thing can happen this year.
"I can see our bullpen being very productive, especially if we can keep Lidge healthy."
The batting order. Manuel expects Placido Polanco to bat second. But that doesn't mean Shane Victorino will bat at the bottom of the lineup all the time. And if Jimmy Rollins struggles as the leadoff hitter, Manuel said, Victorino could be inserted there.
"When I look at our lineup, I hope I'll be able to move guys around some," Manuel said. "I look at Polanco, he's definitely a top-of-the-order hitter. He fits in the two hole. He makes good contact. He probably puts the bat on the ball as good as anybody on our team. He hits a lot of balls to the opposite field. He can play situational ball.
"I look at Shane, it's not like he won't hit sometimes at the top of the order because I think it gives us some options. He'll probably either hit seventh, sixth."
In reserve. The bench is an area Manuel considers vastly improved from last season. The Phillies signed outfielder Ross Gload, infielder Juan Castro, and catcher Brian Schneider to solidify the bench.
Manuel said that if he can have more confidence in his reserve players, it could mean a few more scheduled days off for his regulars, like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
"If you look at the players we picked up this past season, we've got some depth with Gload and [Ben] Francisco in the outfield and Castro, the infielder. We always talked about giving Rollins and Utley and Polanco a rest every now and then. A lot of times I like to push them and let them play 162 games because I like to put the best possible team on the field. But at the same time, I'm excited about our bench because we have versatility and we can do some things."
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or email@example.com.
Since You Last Saw Them
Here is how the Phillies have been reshaped since they lost to the Yankees in the World Series:
25 Re-signed C Paul Hoover
25 Signed SS Wilson Valdez
25 Signed CF Dewayne Wise
25 Re-signed 1B Andy Tracy
1 Signed C Brian Schneider
3 Signed 3B Placido Polanco (right)
3 Signed SS Juan Castro
10 Selected RHP David Herndon from Los Angeles Angels in Rule 5 draft
10 Pedro Feliz signed with Houston
11 Signed SS Cody Ransom
15 Signed OF Ross Gload
16 Traded RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor, and C Travis d'Arnaud to Toronto for RHP Roy Halladay
16 Traded LHP Cliff Lee to Seattle for RHP J.C. Ramirez, RHP Phillippe Aumont and CF Tyson Gillies
28 Eric Bruntlett signed with Washington
5 Signed RHP Danys Baez
6 Clay Condrey signed with Minnesota
7 Signed RHP Ryan Vogelsong
7 Signed RHP Brandon Duckworth
10 Brett Myers signed with Houston
18 Re-signed RHP Chad Durbin
21 Re-signed RHP Joe Blanton to 3-year, $24 million contract
22 Re-signed CF Shane Victorino to 3-year, $22 million contract
23 Matt Stairs signed with San Diego
26 Re-signed C Carlos Ruiz to 3-year, $8.85 million contract
*Free agents Chan Ho Park, Pedro Martinez and Paul Bako remain unsigned; free agent Scott Eyre retired