PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It hasn’t been all good news for the Phillies during Spring Training.
The mood of the club seems to be positive, as the change from Charlie Manuel to Ryne Sandberg seems to be a welcome one to many players. Ryan Howard looks healthy, and the addition of AJ Burnett looked to be one that could change the complexion of the starting rotation.
But those positives have come along with a surprise Cole Hamels injury, that was followed up by Thursday’s “setback.” There was the well publicized story of the Phillies involvement in the negotiations, and then suspension, of Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler. And new starting pitcher Miguel Alfredo-Gonzalez is still in the process of shaking off the rust of a two year layoff.
Through it all, it’s Ruben Amaro Jr who has come under fire.
“Every year [my job is at stake], but I don’t pine over it, I don’t worry about it,” Amaro told Angelo Cataldi and The Morning Team on 94WIP Friday. “What I worry about more is making sure that we put a championship caliber club on the field. I can’t worry about my job status. That’s not something that is productive for me and I don’t think it’s productive for the organization.”
It’s natural for Amaro’s job status to come into question when a team goes from championship caliber, to .500, to 20 games under .500 in consecutive years.
“The fact of the matter is, it’s hard to win. We were trying to do that and we were getting, we did pretty damn good for awhile, winning over 100 games a couple times and such,” Amaro said. “Having the best record in baseball a few times, but winning in the playoffs and winning the World Series is not easy and our job is to try to do what we can to get there. If we cannot this year, and this is a big year for us, if we can’t this year we may have to look to make some significant changes. We’re not getting any younger, I understand that, but we do have some young players that if things don’t pan out we might have to give these guys an opportunity to show what they can do.”
It would be hard to imagine the Phillies competing for the playoffs without their ace. Cole Hamels was still feeling the effects of biceps tendonitis when he arrived in Clearwater, and although he said he didn’t think it was serious, he counted himself out for Opening Day. The public concern about Hamels grew louder when the left-hander said he suffered a setback, and would refrain from pitching for at least a week.
Hamels said he had not considered an MRI. Why not?
“Because he’s not hurt and he doesn’t have any pain and the doctors have seen him. They have twirled his arm, they’ve check with him. He’s doing fine,” Amaro said. “We know he’s not hurt. We know he is just rehabbing and he just needs to build his arm strength and his body strength. Listen, everybody thinks we’re withholding information. When Chase Utley, way back when, thought he was going to playing in mid-march, so did we. And then all of the sudden, when his knees don’t bounce back, we can’t control. When other guys—same thing with [Roy] Halladay. We thought he was going to be fine, he’s building arm strength, and then things just didn’t go well. If something like that happens with Cole Hamels, then that’s what happens. This is part of the injury process.
“What is the point of holding back information or not doing our jobs and making sure our players are healthy? Guys get hurt, when they get hurt, they don’t play. It’s as simple as that. He’s throwing every single day. He’s never stopped throwing. I do not know [when he will throw off a mound]. We’re hopeful that he does it some time next week. He felt good yesterday, he threw. He felt fine, no pain. He felt better, he felt a little bit stronger, and so we’ll progress him and when he’s ready to throw off the mound he’ll throw off the mound.”
Alfredo-Gonzalez looked to be slotted in for the fourth starter position when the team signed Burnett, but a slow start has brought that into question.
“Let me get the facts straight first, he was never signed to a $48 million deal. That was a rumor,” Amaro said. Alfredo-Gonzale eventually signed a three-year, $12 million deal. “We did have to do our due diligence on the guy and felt like after doing that, that the appropriate number for him was what it was. He’s progressed. It’s been a long time since he pitched. I was actually very encouraged—while his results weren’t great, wasn’t necessarily encouraged by the fact that his radar was off—but his stuff and the way he handled himself was very good and we’ll just see how well he progresses over the next several times he pitches.”
Amaro also addressed the situation with Wetzler, which brought the Phillies organization under fire.
“Well [Wetzler] only missed two starts, so let’s get it straight,” Amaro said. “By no means did we want to impact this kid, but we probably could have handled things a little bit better. I don’t really feel it’s appropriate to talk about the ins and outs of it, but a lesson learned.”