CLEARWATER, Fla. - Baseball is a game of tradition, and so it is that the first full-squad workout of spring training is always preceded by a speech from the manager.
Charlie Manuel opened his yesterday with a joke.
"I can't tell you because it wasn't clean," the Phillies' manager said. "It was good for the locker room. Just wanted to loosen things up."
While there were chuckles in Manuel's meeting, there was also plenty of seriousness.
Manuel told 64 players ranging from superstars such as Ryan Howard to low-level minor-league prospects such as Anthony Hewitt that last year's World Series championship was a happy memory but it's time to focus on repeating.
He stressed that jobs could be won in spring training, and if you want playing time, go out and take it away from someone.
"Look at [Greg] Dobbs," Manuel said in a meeting with reporters later in the day. "He went out and made our team two years ago."
Reliever Scott Eyre gave Manuel's speech an A. First of all, it was quick and to the point, and Eyre liked that.
But he also liked the message.
"You don't win the World Series with just 25 guys," Eyre said. "Guys come and go all season. It's important that everyone, especially the young guys, hear that."
Manuel hit all the important points - be on time, work hard - in his speech.
"It was good, but not as good as his World Series speech," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "Vince Lombardi would have been proud of that one. It was awesome - old school, inspirational, motivational, a good old pump-up. I'll never forget what it meant to me. Charlie talked about what a tremendous opportunity was in front of us. It was geared toward how we played on the field. There were no notes - everything was off the cuff, but it was great."
Manuel had some notes yesterday but didn't use them.
First-year general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. also addressed the team.
"He talked some about the fans, how they backed us and pulled for us and looked at us as their team," Manuel said. "The whole city of Philadelphia is on our side."
According to Manuel, Amaro told the team "not to be afraid to give something back to the fans as far as attention, talking to them, those things - which is good, very good."
After just a few days in camp, Eyre, who has played for four other major-league teams, said this is one of the best he has attended.
"Everything moves quick," he said. "There's not a lot of talking, not a lot of standing around, so your back stiffens up."
With the sun shining, a large gathering of fans looking on and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt in uniform as a guest instructor, Phillies players filled four fields at the Carpenter Complex. They did extensive defensive drills and took batting practice. Pitchers continued to build arm strength by throwing off bullpen mounds.
Many eyes were on all-star second baseman Chase Utley, who continues his speedy recovery from November hip surgery. Utley took ground balls and turned double plays without a hitch. Afterward, he hit off a tee and swatted some soft tosses in the batting cage. Utley said he felt good and still hopes to be ready for opening day.
Third baseman Pedro Feliz, recovering from November back surgery, did not take ground balls. He is behind Utley in his recovery. The Phils will not know if he'll be ready for opening day until he begins more strenuous baseball activity in the coming days.
On the whole, Phillies players have shown up to camp in excellent shape. Howard, 20 pounds lighter than last season, looks strong, lean and happy. He, of course, just signed a three-year, $54 million contract. That'll do it every time.
Notes. Manuel will leave camp today to attend the funeral of Ted Uhlaender, one of his closest friends. The two were teammates with the Minnesota Twins and coached together in Cleveland. Uhlaender, most recently a scout with the San Francisco Giants, died of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, last week at the age of 68.
Catcher Chris Coste signed a one-year contract for $460,000.
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