CLEARWATER, Fla. - Phillies record for most runs scored in a season: 944, set in 1930.

"Really?" said Charlie Manuel, raising an eyebrow.

Now, the Phillies manager understands how important pitching is. At the same time, he'll talk about hitting - the mechanics, the art, the science - at the drop of a fungo bat.

"We talk offense all the time," Manuel said with a chuckle. "[Pitching coach] Rich Dubee, of course, talks pitching. And I love pitching, believe me, and we've got to have it. But I'm still an offensive guy and [hitting coach] Milt Thompson and even [first-base coach] Davey Lopes, we like to talk hitting. [Bench coach] Jimy Williams gets excited over offense."

Drive for show and putt for dough. Still, the objective is to score more runs than the other team and, bottom line, a 10-9 win counts just as much as a 2-1 final score.

So think about this, for a moment:

In 2005, the Phillies scored 807 runs.

In 2006, they scored 865.

In 2007, they scored 892, third-highest total in franchise history.

This year, a new record?

"Yeah. Yes, I think we can do that," Manuel said. "I'll go out on a limb and say that. Don't get me wrong. Things have to fall for us. We have to work hard. The players still have to go out and do it. But, yeah, we have the talent to do that. From an offensive standpoint, we definitely have the talent."

That's not as far-fetched as it sounds, even though the Phillies haven't exactly been pounding the ball this spring. After yesterday's 5-3 exhibition loss to the Reds at Bright House Field, they are batting just .247 and averaging only 4.4 runs per game during Grapefruit League play.

For starters, the manager believes that none of his three MVP candidates has reached his full potential.

"Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins. I think they've still got more in them," he said.

Ditto for centerfielder Shane Victorino. "I've always had a high ceiling for him," Manuel said.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz, in his second season, figures to be more productive.

New third baseman Pedro Feliz, on paper, should put up better numbers than last year's Wes Helms-Greg Dobbs platoon.

The biggest question going in is whether the rightfield platoon of Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins can match the numbers put up by the departed Aaron Rowand (105 runs scored, 89 RBI).

It's the Phillies' combination of potential speed and power that most excites Manuel.

"If you've noticed, even in spring training this year, we've manufactured some runs by stealing bases, getting a guy over, manufactured some runs with a fly ball or a ground ball," he said.

"I think fans love to see Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell and our team hit homers. At the same time, I think they like to see baseball as far as the way we manufacture runs by stealing. You mix that with the power that we have and I think we can have a big offense."

There have been just eight teams in baseball history to score at least 1,000 runs and only one since 1950. That was the 1999 Cleveland Indians, whose hitting coach was . . . Charlie Manuel.

"I think this team is very similar," he said. "We have Victorino and Rollins at the top. Back then we had [Kenny] Lofton and [Roberto] Alomar and [Omar] Vizquel. With power. So it was very similar."

So do the Phillies have a chance to reach 1,000 runs?

"We could do it," Manuel said. "Howard 2 years ago hit .300. If Burrell could get back up in the .280 range. If Jenkins rebounds and puts up some of his big numbers. Feliz. We could get that, too. I think we could."

Thompson declined to make any predictions, but added: "With Ryan healthy, there's no telling what his numbers are going to be. Especially now that he's got his leftfield stroke back. I kind of like that. He's hitting the ball very hard to leftfield. We've talked a lot about that.

"Shane and Jimmy at the top of the lineup, if they continue to get on, a lot of good things will happen."

While it's fun to imagine how many runs the Phillies could score this year if everything comes together, this is also worth remembering.

That 1930 team that set the record? That Phillies team lost 102 games and finished dead last. So it really does come down to pitching. *