Ryne Sandberg, the 52nd manager in Phillies history, will lead the Phillies in his first spring training as skipper. Credit: Getty Images
Since 2005, there has been stability, routine and Virginia charm at Phillies spring training camp.
But for the first time in nine seasons, there is a new field general at Bright House Field and he intends to get every sliver of potential out of his veteran and aging squad heading into 2014.
Item one for Sandberg: getting the entire team in the same frame of mind.
"I wanted to get everybody on the same page as far as expectations, my philosophies on things and my definitions on things," Sandberg said last week on his first day at camp. "Respecting the game was one of the topics. I laid things out there so there is no misunderstandings. I was excited to see everybody and actually get started with the process of molding the guys together as a unit."
Sandberg had a hall of fame career with the Chicago Cubs and won a league MVP award in 1984. He was actually drafted by the Phillies in 1978 but traded after just six plate appearances. One of the staples of his time in blue pinstripes was great fundamental play at second and third base, and as the team workouts start to give way to exhibition Grapefruit League games, the manager will be providing a keen eye to the basics of baseball.
"That's something I like to stress — I know the importance of fundamentals," Sandberg told the Associated Press. "Having the drills and starting it now really gets the guys thinking. We're going to stress them and we're going to do them daily. We're going to repeat them. That's going to be a routine set in spring training. We will do them throughout the season. It's really creating a routine so the players will adapt to it and get used to it."
Sandberg was named skipper last season after Manuel was dismissed during a dismal sub .500 campaign. In 42 games with the Phillies, Sandberg went 20-22.
The Phillies host the Blue Jays Wednesday in the first spring training game of the pre-season, a 1:05 start. After nine years of Manuel, it will be interesting to see if Sandberg takes a different approach as he prepares his players for the marathon of a 162 game season.