Phillies Notebook: Amaro takes his share of the blame for Phillies' season

Posted: October 05, 2012

FOR THE second straight year, Ruben Amaro Jr. sat in front of a microphone at the dais in the Phillies' media room and had to explain why his team, flush with All-Star and high-payroll talent, underachieved.

After getting bounced by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round in 2011, Amaro pointed the finger at his team's offensive approach. The general manager hinted at a similar issue in Thursday's season autopsy, saying he wasn't happy with the "brand of baseball" that was played for the majority of the season.

But he also took some blame, too, saying the front office didn't cover enough for the offense that was lost with injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, or for a bullpen that lacked any reliable veteran arms other than closer Jonathan Papelbon.

"That was something I think that I regret a little bit," Amaro said.

Known for his aggressive pursuits of free agents and trade partners both in the winter and at the trade deadline, Amaro is expected to move forward this offseason similarly in pursuit of an impact bat or two, with holes at third base and the outfield. But once again he made it clear that the responsibility also lies with the veteran players already under contract in the team's effort to return to being one of the National League's top teams.

"There is urgency - our core guys are not getting any younger," Amaro said. "The bottom line is this: If our players that we paid a great deal of money to do not perform next year, we're going to be in trouble. We need them to perform. Ryan Howard has to perform. Chase Utley has to perform. Roy Halladay has to come back and perform. And we have to get that performance out of guys like Chooch [Carlos Ruiz] and [Cole] Hamels and [Cliff] Lee.

"If we don't get their performance, it's going to be troublesome for us. We're relying on those guys to perform. We think they will, and we're hopeful that they're healthier. But we need to support them better, and that's kind of my job to be able to try to do that."

Another hire coming?

The Phillies promoted former minor league hitting coordinator Steve Henderson to major league hitting coach.

Henderson, 61, has been in the organization since 2010. Before joining the Phillies, Henderson served as the hitting coach for the Tampa Bay Rays (2006-09).

But the Phillies aren't stopping at Henderson. Before announcing the flurry of coaching changes at a press conference, Amaro said they would employ an assistant hitting coach in 2013.

"We're actually going to be in the process of interviewing for a second hitting coach job that's going to change that dynamic a little bit; it's something we wanted to address," Amaro said. "It's something that's worked out for other clubs, we've done some research here quite a bit and decided we're going to go with a two-man crew in that regard."

The St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres all employed assistant hitting coaches this season. The Cardinals and the Braves, of course, had some success, since they'll square off in the National League wild-card game on Friday.

"I think the system will be better with an assistant in so much that different guys take information in different ways," Amaro said. "I think it's important for our players to see different points of view and get information in different ways. I talked to [Henderson] about adding that other element and he thought it was a very good idea."

Juan and done?

The coaching staff was overhauled in the first 24 hours of the offseason. The next facet of the team that could get a drastic makeover is the outfield.

After Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were traded on July 31, the Phils gave Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. regular playing time in the final 2 months. Although both showed spurts of success, neither did anything to guarantee themselves jobs in 2013.

The future is also unclear for the most productive and consistent outfielder this season: Juan Pierre. The 35-year-old will file for free agency next month coming off a season when he hit .307 with a .351 on-base percentage. He went 37-for-44 in stolen-base attempts in 130 games.

"He did a tremendous job for us when he got to play," manager Charlie Manuel said of Pierre, who was on a 1-year, $800,000 contract after earning $8.5 million in 2011. "I look at him in the National League as he's a very good bench player and part-time player for you . . . He's a guy I would definitely consider being on our team."

Et tu, Rube?

"He obviously had a great year for us," Amaro said. "I think where we're going to go, however, may affect his chances of being with our club. You can look at our club and see how lefthanded we are, and that righthanded bats are something we have to consider. That may not necessarily preclude him from coming back, but I think we have some other fish to fry and that may not be the first one."

Quote of the day

In a press conference that lasted nearly 45 minutes, Charlie Manuel had the best line when asked if Jimmy Rollins' propensity for pop-ups could become contagious, with other players also having bad at-bats.

"Just because Jimmy Rollins pops up doesn't mean Charlie Manuel is going to pop up. I mean, what the hell?" Manuel said. "That's like me and you going up on the Empire State Building, you jumping off and I don't. I'm smarter than you."


Contact Ryan Lawrence at rlawrence@phillynews.com.

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