Amaro: Don't misconstrue Papelbon's words

Papelbon
Papelbon
Posted: July 11, 2014

MILWAUKEE - The trade deadline is 20 days away and Jonathan Papelbon is eager to move on from the Phillies to a team in contention.

Asked on Wednesday night if he was ready to move on if a contender came calling, Papelbon gave an affirmative, "Yeah," and added an almost incredulous laugh, too, for effect.

Papelbon also said it was "mind-boggling" to him that anyone would want to stay on a last-place team, that it was a "no-brainer" to move on if given the chance.

How exactly did his boss react to that?

"Every single player on this team should want to play for a winning team," Amaro said yesterday morning in the visiting dugout at Miller Park. "Simple as that."

Amaro is correct, of course. Although, during the same road trip, both Chase Utley and Cole Hamels expressed their desire to remain with the Phillies and voiced their confidence in the team's long-term agenda.

So, if someone feels the opposite way, isn't it better that they move on?

"Don't misconstrue his words," Amaro said. "He never said he's unhappy here. He never said anything like that. He never expressed to me that he's been unhappy. Why wouldn't players want to play on a contending team? It's really rather simple."

Hamels walked by Amaro after playing catch.

"He wants to play on a winning team," Amaro said, pointing to the lefthander. "Why wouldn't he?"

But, Hamels said last week that given his choice, he wants to be here.

"I'm happy to be here," Hamels said after his start in Miami at the beginning of the road trip.

But, again, Amaro said it's not to then assume that Papelbon, who would like to be pitching elsewhere, is an unhappy malcontent.

"I don't misconstrue his comments as something that was negative toward the organization," Amaro said. "He's in a situation where we're not a contending team right now and he would rather be on a contending team, whether it's here in Philadelphia or somewhere else. He's never come to me and said I need to go away, or I'm not happy here. It's just competitive nature."

Per usual, Amaro wouldn't speak specifically about trade rumors. But unlike a year ago and over the winter, when Papelbon was reportedly on the market with little interest, the former All-Star closer is pitching like he'd like to be a difference-maker for a contender.

Papelbon is 2-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 22 saves in 24 save opportunities.

His 0.85 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is 13th among all major league relievers (minimum 30 innings) and his best since finishing with a 0.77 in 2007. His 1.24 ERA is the best in the first half of a season since he sported a ridiculous 0.59 ERA in the first 40 games of his rookie year in 2006.

"He's been outstanding - is there anybody better right now?" Amaro said. "Stuff-wise there might be a guy better, but he's doing his job. He's been phenomenal. He's been outstanding for our kids in the bullpen, I mean, he's been really good with them back there. That means a lot."

Still, Amaro understands the big picture more than Papelbon. And since Papelbon said on Wednesday night that he won't let a no-trade clause prevent him from joining a contender, he would appear to be one of the easier pieces Amaro can move for a prospect (or two) before the end of the month.

"I can't really comment on the trade situation," Amaro said. "We are open-minded about a lot of things. We'll see what happens over the next several weeks."

Papelbon is in the third year of a 4-year, $50 million deal, the largest for a reliever in baseball history. He is owed a minimum of $19.5 million through the 2015 season, and that number increases to $32.5 million through 2016 if he finishes 55 games next year or 100 games in 2014 and 2015.

But the Phillies would almost certainly eat a portion of the money in order to get a better return in any trade.

Pleading the fifth

In the final two games of the road trip, the starting pitchers looked like a couple of guys trying to keep their jobs.

After Roberto Hernandez went a season-high eight innings, holding the Brewers to one run, on Wednesday night, David Buchanan managed to out-pitch a guy flirting with a no-hitter, Milwaukee's Matt Garza, yesterday afternoon. Buchanan collected his fifth win of the season after allowing just one run on four hits in seven innings, setting the stage for the Phillies offense to take over the game.

Both Hernandez and Buchanan are in danger of losing their respective places in the Phillies rotation since Cliff Lee is expected to rejoin the team in Atlanta after the All-Star break next week. Even though Buchanan was optioned to Triple A last night, the Phillies don't need a fifth starter until after the break so the move doesn't rule him out of the mix.

Hernandez, 33, who signed a 1-year, $4.5 million contract this winter, is 4-8 with a 4.30 ERA in 17 starts. "Whenever they give me the ball, the opportunity to pitch, I have to pitch," he said. "I don't have control on the decision. I want to stay. Everybody knows. I don't make the decision."

Buchanan, 25, is 5-5 with a 4.40 ERA in 10 starts.

"We'll talk about that when the time comes," Ryne Sandberg said of the upcoming decision.

Phillers

Cliff Lee will make what is almost certainly his final minor league rehab start on Monday, likely at Class A Clearwater again, according to Amaro. That would put Lee in line to make his first major league start in 2 months on Saturday, July 19, at Turner Field in Atlanta . . . Cole Hamels (3-5, 2.87) is likely in line to start the first game back from the break. He makes his last start of the first half tomorrow at Citizens Bank Park opposite the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 3.47).

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