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Focus moving to Phillies' young players

Despite the presence of longtime veterans, this is a spring training for the likes of Darin Ruf, Tommy Joseph, Freddy Galvis, etc.

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The morning sun ducked under the clouds and the early signs of an afternoon storm were on the horizon, but at least a dozen Phillies players sneaked in some work at the Carpenter Complex before the clock struck noon in Clearwater.

There were more than a couple of unfamiliar faces, non-roster players hoping to make the most of their spring-training invites.

But there was also Darin Ruf, the first baseman/leftfielder still without an obvious place to play. And catcher Tommy Joseph, the key piece of the Hunter Pence trade whose prospect status has suffered with a seemingly never-ending run of injuries. And Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera, a newcomer hoping to find a permanent place on the Phillies' roster.

The three players jogged along the warning track on Ashburn Field late yesterday morning before rounding out their day's work in the weight room.

While the majority of the attention in the next week will be on the veterans who are still on the roster - Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon, etc. - this is the spring training for guys like Ruf, Joseph and Herrera, and Domonic Brown and David Buchanan, and Freddy Galvis, Cody Asche, Ben Revere, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Maikel Franco and so on.

Eventually, those aforementioned former All-Stars and MVPs will be gone, whether it's this spring or the summer or next winter. And then all eyes will be on the next generation of Phillies, the young players team president Pat Gillick, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., manager Ryne Sandberg and company hope can form the foundation for the next contending team in South Philly.

"When I was an assistant GM way back in '98-99, we were building more from scratch," Amaro said last month. "But it's not all that different . . . A lot of it will depend on how quickly our young players will develop into winning-type players. And that's what we're trying to find out - who are the guys who can move our organization forward, what kind of core players we can put together to do that."

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Bright House Field today, with the first official workout on tap for tomorrow. The first full-squad workout will be Tuesday.

Perhaps a handful of the players in camp will be a part of the nucleus of the next Phillies team that sits atop the National League East. But the current rebuild will also rely on the promising youngsters who will arrive in minor league camp next month, like J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin and Roman Quinn.

In the next 6 weeks, however, and the regular season that follows, it'll be up to the Rufs and Reveres to show whether they belong for the long haul.

"It takes a very special player to be able to come onto the scene and be able to handle being a quality starting pitcher in the major leagues, and it's the same way with being an everyday player," Amaro said. "We've been grown accustomed, because we had success for a lot of years, that every player on our club would be a quality or All-Star player. We had a lot of those at almost every position for a while and that was the expectation.

"It's different. The expectation is a little different. Now we're going to try to find out if those guys can get there. You have to remember, guys like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, all of those guys, they weren't All-Stars right away. they developed into good players. It takes some time. Hopefully we can speed up the process and learn a little bit more about that."

While Amaro and his staff continue to evaluate the growing portion of their 40-man roster of younger players, there are still those aforementioned 30-somethings who have a different perspective and career expectations.

Hamels wants to pitch for a winning team and understands the volatile nature that comes with being a starting pitcher who already has celebrated his 31st birthday. Howard was benched last summer, heard from his own general manager that his team would be better off without him this winter, and faces an uncertain spring with other first basemen vying for playing time.

Papelbon, of course, didn't come here for this - "this" being a member of a rebuilding team.

The Phillies brass will continue in their attempts to find sensible trades for those veterans, but there isn't any deadline they're up against, either. Although injuries could force other teams into becoming more aggressive in pursuing trades, there's a decent chance Hamels, Howard, Papelbon and the rest will break camp when the Phillies head north on April 2.

"It's not exactly a fantasy league where you can buy players and switch players whenever you wish," Gillick said. "Every player is a challenge, whether the [annual average value] of their contract, the length of contract - there's a lot of factors that go into it . . . Let me put it this way: It's not like we're sitting back and waiting for something to happen. Ruben has been very aggressive, he's had a lot of dialogue. He's definitely trying to be practical in what he's looking for, but we want to do something that makes sense for the Phillies from a trade standpoint. We're a work in progress, but we're trying to do things in the best interest of the Phillies and the best interest of our fans."

But the hot stove league gives way to the Grapefruit League in less than 2 weeks. Even if the front office can't go completely out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new, the focus in Camp Clearwater will be on those young players and the progression they're able to make in their big-league careers.

"One of the things I'm looking forward to is younger faces," Sandberg said. "Players that want to prove themselves and do that with energy, who play hard and hustle, and mix that in with the rest of our group."

Stiles promoted

Three weeks after the first front-office shuffle - with Pat Gillick moving into the president's chair and David Montgomery becoming chairman - the Phillies made another change yesterday.

Michael Stiles was promoted to vice president and chief operating officer, the team announced. Stiles, who first joined the front office in 2001, had served as senior vice president for administration and operations since 2007.

Stiles essentially takes control over all business operations while Gillick tends to baseball operations - similar to the setup the team went to when Montgomery took a medical leave last August.

"Mike is highly respected by the Philadelphia business community, Phillies staff and those in baseball who have come to know him since joining the Phillies 14 years ago," Gillick said in a press release. "Mike has proven himself to be a strong leader on a wide variety of critical business issues. He is a trusted adviser to many, but particularly to me, David Montgomery and our ownership group."