SAN DIEGO - Ruben Amaro Jr. understands the distress over a Phillies offense that scored fewer than three runs per game in the season's first two weeks.
Actually, he welcomes the idea of slight panic in a fan base. "It means people care," Amaro said.
"If this continues to be the trend," he added, "then yes, it is cause for concern."
But . . .
"I can't make any assessments about this club until we're into the season," Amaro said. "Two weeks of baseball is not a season. We have to let this thing play out a little bit and see how it goes. It's too small a sample size right now. Obviously, we'd like to be swinging the bats better."
The general manager watched from a club box at AT&T Park in San Francisco as his team wasted a brilliant pitching performance by Cliff Lee. Disappointed, he wondered whether it represented a nadir.
Life without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley was not expected to be a joyride. Amaro said his expectations have hardly changed given what he's seen so far.
"We have a lot of baseball to play," Amaro said. "Right now, there are some guys who are better hitters than they've been. I do believe these guys will come up with big base hits when it's time to do it. They've done it in the past. I think they'll do it again."
He pointed to Placido Polanco and John Mayberry Jr. as two of those players.
That would ease some of the sting, but there are chilling numbers from those two weeks of baseball. The Phillies entered Thursday tied for last in the majors with 20 walks. They had seen fewer pitches per plate appearance (3.63) than any other team. And only the Pirates and Cubs had fewer extra-base hits.
If it was only two weeks, it certainly was a disconcerting fortnight. But Amaro will withhold judgment.
"Everybody needs to contribute just a little bit," he said. "They don't have to do a lot. Just a little bit. Everyone has to contribute while we have people out."
Ryan Howard will see a specialist again Friday and finally could receive the news he's been waiting for.
"Hopefully," Amaro said, "he can start doing more baseball stuff."
In in his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery and a subsequent infection, Howard has been limited to strength exercises with limitations and basic on-field work such as taking ground balls and playing catch. That could change.
Amaro said Howard is seeing the same wound specialist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital he saw earlier in the week. There was no news because there was not enough progress in healing.
He had a second surgery Feb. 27 to clean an infection where the original procedure on his torn Achilles was performed. Howard has yet to run or hit since then.
Carlos Ruiz caught a Vance Worley start for the first time since July 15, 2011. Brian Schneider had been paired with Worley for his previous 14 starts, but manager Charlie Manuel said he was not married to the idea of a personal-catcher relationship. With a scuffling lineup, he wanted Ruiz's bat in there. . . . Manuel said he considered starting Jim Thome at first base Thursday but opted not to because he had never faced Padres righthander Joe Wieland. Thome could play this weekend.
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