Ruben Amaro says he won't shake up Phillies

Posted: June 16, 2010

NEW YORK - For better or worse, Ruben Amaro Jr. is married to the Phillies' offense, and he has no plans for a separation.

It was worse, not better, Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, where the Phillies managed just five hits and couldn't deliver in the clutch during an 8-3 loss to the team that shattered their dreams of a World Series repeat last November.

"We're not making any major moves here," the general manager said Tuesday before his team opened a three-game series with the World Series champion New York Yankees. "This is our team out here. They'll be fine. If we get the guys healthy, they'll be fine."

Then Amaro made an even stronger statement about his struggling team, saying the Phillies "have one of the best nine in the game."

Presumably, he meant the eight position players manager Charlie Manuel sends out on a nightly basis, particularly when shortstop Jimmy Rollins is in the lineup.

"I'll challenge anybody if they don't think we have one of the best nine in the field," Amaro said.

The general manager did not rule out the idea of making a deadline deal for pitching help but said it would depend on the health of starter J.A. Happ and reliever Ryan Madson. Happ has made just two starts this season because of a strained left forearm and Madson has been on the disabled list since April 29 with a fractured toe.

"Pitching is always the issue," Amaro said. "Everybody is always looking for the same thing at the trade deadline. Again, a lot of it depends on how Happ progresses. We have to get Madson back and then I like our chances. That's the most important development for us right now - getting healthy."

Amaro is not oblivious to the fact that his team has stumbled for the last month, primarily because the bats have disappeared. During an 8-17 stretch, the Phillies have batted .221 and averaged 2.5 runs per game.

The general manager insisted that the last month is an aberration.

"The guys have track records and they're . . . championship-caliber players and they will be again," Amaro said. "They're struggling, some of them, but they've had past success. They just need to play better and they will."

Amaro was asked if he was trying to send a message.

"The message is we have good players and they'll be good again," he said. "That's my opinion. We've gone through a tough time, but it's not like the first time we've gone through a tough time . . . but we're going to be OK. We're concerned, yes, but I think we're going to be OK. What were we last June, 4-14?"

The Phillies went through a 7-16 stretch last June, but the difference this time is that the offense has gone into a collective slide. Amaro said he'd rather have the hitters slumping than the pitching staff reeling because "I believe we're going to hit."

As confident as Amaro says he is in his hitters, he did not have any great answers about specific players.

Amaro was asked about slumping second baseman Chase Utley, who did have two of the Phillies' five hits Tuesday.

"Everybody is a little confused by that, including him probably," he said. "But I think all of us know what Chase is. He's a quality run-producer, and he's one of the best run-producers in the league. At the end of the day, he'll prove that to be the truth again."

He also defended leftfielder Raul Ibanez, who has just four home runs and 28 RBIs.

"What I think is happening is that it's taking the first part of the season to get his legs under him," Amaro said. "Having two [groin] surgeries like that, I think he's still getting his sea legs under him. He has been swinging the bat better of late. He had two separate surgeries on both sides of the groin."

Amaro also said he was OK with the Phillies' bench even though the team has a .118 pinch-hitting average (10 for 85), the worst in the National League. He acknowledged that Greg Dobbs has struggled but said he was pleased with Ben Francisco and the work of reserve shortstops Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez, who have combined to fill in for the injured Rollins.

And, of course, there's always the theory that everything will get better once Rollins returns from a calf injury.

"He's a run-producer and he's probably the best defensive shortstop in our league," Amaro said. "That can't be an excuse, but we do miss him. That's reality, but we have to deal with it."

The Phillies are trying to deal with it, but it's mostly costing their manager sleep.

"I sleep in spurts," Manuel said. "I think we know how to play. I know our players know everything that's going on. It's important to go out and grind it out. You have to play as hard as you can and work as hard as you can. Winning is never easy. It's way harder than people think it is."


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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