Greetings from Day Two of the winter meetings. Ruben Amaro Jr. just finished holding his daily press briefing in the Phillies suite here at the Swan and Dolphin at Disney World. Earlier, Charlie Manuel addressed the media for the first time since Jayson Werth signed that monster deal with the Nationals. We have plenty of odds and ends to cover, although nothing earth-shattering.
1) The Phillies have released minor leaguers Yohan Flande and Jesus Sanchez, which clears two spots from the 40-man roster and enables the club to participate in Thursday's Rule 5 draft. It also opens up a spot in case the Phillies make a trade or free agent signing over the next few days.
2) That said, Amaro said he gets the feeling that the Phillies will not make a move before departing Orlando in a couple days.
"I honestly do not think anything is going to get done this week," Amaro said.
But that is subject to change. He said the club has had some "substantive" talks with various free agents. One player we know they have met with is lefty Dennys Reyes, who posted a 3.55 ERA last season in 59 appearances for the Cardinals. That doesn't mean Reyes is a big target of the Phillies. His strikeout rate (5.9 per-nine-innings) was down last season and he allowed lefties to hit .307 with an .862 OPSin 75 at-bats.
3) Manuel was asked about free agent outfielder Jeff Francoeur, a player the Phillies have kept tabs on. The Phillies were scheduled to meet with Francoeur's agent at some point yesterday or today, although it isn't clear what level of interest they have in him. Manuel, for one, sounded upbeat about the prospect of working with Francoeur, who has struggled over the last few seasons.
"You know something, I've always liked Francoeur,' Manuel said. "I've always thought he had a lot of talent, and he proved that, I think, when he first came to the big leagues. For some reason the last couple years he hasn't produced in a way that you would want him to or like to see him. But at the same time if he had been playing a lot better, then more than likely he wouldn't be available today. I know the kid. If you go ask him, he'll tell you that he's going to do better and he wants to do better, and he knows he's better, how he's been the last year or two, because he's that kind of guy.
"I think when you look at someone like that, that's baseball. Sometimes those are the guys that step up. And I'm sure you're going to ask me about Jayson Werth, but I remember when Jayson Werth was guys like that. Those are guys that some people got ability, and those are the guys you take the chance on. And Francoeur has been in the big leagues a while and has some experience. I think he definitely hasn't reached his potential yet and he's capable of putting together some good seasons."
4) One interesting tidbit from Manuel's press conference: he indicated that Ryan Howard never fully recovered from the sprained ankle that he suffered in August. Howard hit a career-low 31 home runs and 108 RBI last season and also posted career lows in slugging percentage (.505) and OPS (.859) while hitting .276.
"The fact that he hit 31, he knocked in 107-108 or something, I mean, he finished the season with a hurt ankle," Manuel said. "I'm not making an excuse. We don't use excuses for things. But at the same time I felt like that was his back side, and he was not using his legs at the end of the year. When he came back, he didn't use his legs at all, and hitting his balance and rhythm and getting a good push off the back side. That's where your power lies. He was having trouble staying on his back side."
5) The Phillies aren't sure what to expect out of Jimmy Rollins in 2011.
"Before the season was over I talked to Jimmy a few times, I would say more than two or three whatever, about his season and what he's going to do," Manuel said. "He knows exactly what he has to do and where he's at from a conditioning standpoint, taking care of Hill self. He revealed to me that he wanted to play another six years. We talked about things that he had to do, and I told him how he's got to go about it. We'll see. Jimmy Rollins is a very talented player. We need him to have a Jimmy Rollins year."
6) Manuel said top prospect Domonic Brown is going to get a long look at spring training, and it sound as if the manager wants to give the kid every possible chance to start the season on the big league roster.
"I think spring training is going to be big for him," Manuel said. "I think first of all when he came up when Victorino got hurt during the season, I think, what, when Victorino came back somewhere around the 12th or 15th of August, and if we had sent him out, you're talking two weeks. I don't think that hurt his development any. But at the same time we kept him on our roster and everything because we felt like, especially at that time that he might be capable of coming off the bench and helping us and might get to play every now and then. But he definitely didn't finish the way that we wanted him to, of course. But that wasn't all his fault.
"I just saw where they took him out of winter ball or he left winter ball or something. I'm not worried about that. I'm not worried about him getting off to a bad start. But there have been a lot of players that have gone to winter ball, and there are a lot of players that haven't done well and got sent home. I think spring training is going to be really big for him. I think we're going to get a lot of work in with him. I think GG and myself, I think we're going to talk a lot about his hitting and work with him some. I think he's going to get to play a lot, and we can work with all of his game. Basically his baseball game period, running bases, defense, and we're going to try to get him to the point where we can see how good he is.