Phils open second half with loss to Braves

Jimmy Rollins is tagged out trying to steal second by the Braves' Andrelton Simmons in the eighth. Associated Press
Jimmy Rollins is tagged out trying to steal second by the Braves' Andrelton Simmons in the eighth. Associated Press
Posted: July 20, 2014

ATLANTA - For four days, the Phillies dispersed. Most went home. A few vacationed at the beach, and one traveled to Minnesota. They convened Friday at Turner Field, a group of 25 men still intact from last weekend. That will not last.

Ryne Sandberg relaxed in Cape May, and the Phillies manager heard unsolicited advice from fans. He, like everyone in the Phillies clubhouse, knows change is looming. He watched another dispiriting loss, 6-4, to first-place Atlanta, and he must create another lineup Saturday because that is what this job demands.

Sandberg portrayed a scenario in which the final two months are spent researching alternatives. (The manager is not yet ready to concede.) Grady Sizemore will play five times a week. Darin Ruf and Freddy Galvis, both recovering from injuries this weekend at triple-A Lehigh Valley, could see regular action. None of those names will generate jubilation.

"To see those possibilities on the horizon," Sandberg said, "it's something to look forward to."

There was nothing for A.J. Burnett to remember about Friday. He fired just 77 pitches. He allowed six runs on 10 hits. It did not boost his trade value.

"Everything was up," Burnett said. "I was off."

His start ended after the fifth inning, and TV cameras captured him jawing with rookie catcher Cameron Rupp in the dugout. Sandberg denied any strife.

What angered Burnett so much?

"Six runs in five innings," he said.

The 37-year-old righthander has a 4.08 ERA. He pitched seven or more innings in six of his previous seven starts (a 2.94 ERA in that span) before imploding Friday. Burnett, who will need hernia surgery this fall, has a mutual option for 2015. That will put off interested teams, although Burnett could retire after this season. He contemplated that option last winter until the Phillies offered him $16 million and a perceived chance at another postseason.

There will always be potential suitors, especially for a veteran pitcher who is revered in the Phillies clubhouse for his mentorship of young players, but the return will be limited.

The Braves lashed three hits on three pitches in the second inning. They scored four runs just moments after the Phillies jumped to a short-lived 2-0 lead. Earlier this season, Burnett criticized his failures at "shutdown" innings. It happened again.

Burnett is not a part of the franchise's future; Sandberg's task in August and September will be to find a few players who are. Ruf (fractured wrist) and Galvis (fractured collarbone) are rehabbing difficult injuries. Ruf is 10 for 57 (.175) with just one extra-base hit in 15 minor-league games since the injury.

"His timing is off," Sandberg said. "He's not ready yet."

Galvis homered Friday for single-A Clearwater. He will transfer to Allentown this weekend. The light-hitting, good-glove infielder was 2 for 42 with the Phillies in April and May.

"I do think it's important to have players who fit my type of players," Sandberg said. "That's important going forward. I think getting younger will be a step going forward."

What is Sandberg's type of player?

"An energy player," he said. "Versatile player. A baseball player. Does the little things. A guy that knows the game and plays the game the right away."

That echoed comments made by Chase Utley at the All-Star Game. The second baseman opined that the Phillies could benefit from more energy on the roster. Winning, of course, breeds that. But Sandberg and Utley - two integral men in the organization - endorsed a youth movement in the span of five days.

The trades are just talk, for now.

"We know where we're at in the standings," Sandberg said. "We know where we are position wise. The focus on my end is still winning as many games as we can, whether it's looking at somebody at a position or something like that going forward."


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

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