Phillies hitters look to change pinstripes

Charlie Manuel

Ruben Amaro believes that Phillies hitters can change their pinstripes, er, approach to hitting.

So, how does Charlie Manuel feel about that idea?

“I’m definitely on board with what Ruben says,” Manuel said at a press conference Wednesday. “He would like us to grind out more at-bats, learn how to work more counts and have plate discipline. All those things he talks about, I talked about [with his players]. I teach that. It’s a matter of reminding guys … We have to get better hitting.”

But is that possible with the cast of aging veterans, who have been plagued with nagging to debilitating injuries over the last two seasons? It’s not a stretch to wonder if the Phillies still have the horses to put up significant offensive numbers. The manager with the most wins in franchise history believes his team of free swingers can turn things around. He thinks he has a number of potential .300 hitters going into the 2012 season.

“We used to have .300 hitters,” Manuel said. “Utley used to be a .300 hitter, Victorino can be a .300 hitter. He’s got talent. Howard hit .300 one year. Hunter Pence hit .300 with us and the Houston Astros this year. We’ve got some guys that can hit .300.”

Perhaps Manuel, a proud hitting guru, will spend more time with his starting eight. It appears evident that he’ll be in their ears as frequently as hitting coach Greg Gross.

“I take a lot of pride in hitters, “Manuel said. “I know how good a hitting coach I am and I don’t care whether you believe that or not. We will get better.”

The Phillies’ offensive core has no option but to improve. The stakes will be as high as the payroll, which will continue to hover around the $175 million mark, according to Amaro. It’s win now for the Phillies, who will once again feature three of the best pitchers in baseball, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Those arms will make the Phillies one of the favorites to reach the World Series next season. But the onus is on the offense, which may or may not include Jimmy Rollins.

Manuel believes the team will benefit from a full season of Hunter Pence.

“That [deal] improved our team and gave us a big lift, and gave us a player we desperately needed. We became a better team with Hunter Pence.”

It’s apparent that it’s John Mayberry Jr.’s job to lose in left field. Manuel thinks that the long, lanky athlete can have a Jayson Werth-esque impact.

“He proved that he can be a good every day player,” Manuel said. “He will get every chance in the world to become an everyday player.”

Pence and Mayberry Jr. would be the lone regulars under 30 in the lineup. They would also be the lone pure home run threats, with Ryan Howard on the shelf. There’s no manager who digs the long ball as much as Manuel, but even he acknowledges that there is a power shortage in South Philadelphia.

“If we need to upgrade and we can, we should do it,” Manuel said. “Our home run production is down.”

The Phillies didn’t show much plate discipline and home runs were hit less frequently in 2011, but Manuel believes he can fix that. He also thinks that fans should expect the Phillies to get back to the World Series next season.

“When we go to spring training, what we will be talking about is getting to the World Series and winning it.”


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