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Notes: Phillies full of optimism

Notes: Phils full of optimism at annual luncheon

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PHILADELPHIA -- Optimism was the word of the day as everyone arrived at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce annual Phillies luncheon on Friday at Citizens Bank Park.

Invited guests were optimistic. The players and coaches were as well.

General manager Pat Gillick was especially optimistic.

"Everyone is all smiles today," Gillick said. "I want to go home smiling 100 times this year. That's only 16 times a month."

If that happens, the Phillies will certainly reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993. They missed the postseason by just one game a season ago.

"I'm excited and can't wait to get this thing started," manager Charlie Manuel said at the luncheon. "We have a great group of guys who did a good job at Spring Training. Now, it's time to get started with the next step. We all feel we're ready to take another step. Let's get it going."

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, right fielder Bobby Abreu and Opening Day starter Jon Lieber took part in a question-and-answer session with some of the guests at the luncheon.

One of the first questions posed to Rollins was about if the Phillies were going to make it to the playoffs this season.

"The end result will be different," Rollins said. "Why? Because we know we can win."

Checking it out: Before the Phillies participated in a brief workout on Friday, Gillick, Manuel, president David Montgomery and assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had a discussion in the left-field corner of the ballpark.

The left-field fence was a big topic of conversation in the offseason and was moved back 30 feet, while also being raised five feet.

Montgomery said that the long discussion didn't mean anything was wrong.

"It was just a talk about what the angles are and how to play balls off the fence," Montgomery said.

Citizens Bank Park has been criticized -- most notably by Braves pitcher John Smoltz -- for the number of home run balls sailing over the short porch. But Montgomery said the ballpark has not deterred free agent pitchers from considering the Phillies.

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"Never," Montgomery said. "It's an urban myth."

Fighting for a spot: David Bell was schedule to play in a Minor League game on Friday. If his back holds up and he's ready for Opening Day, it would likely leave just one roster spot to fill for three players: Tomas Perez, Chris Roberson and Chris Coste.

"Right now, the plan is for David Bell to be on the team," Manuel said. "His back is doing real well now. We'll just have to wait and see."

Coste would be a terrific story if makes the final roster, because he would be a 33-year-old rookie. Coste hit an incredible .463 in Spring Training.

"Chris Coste is a guy who had an excellent Spring Training and kept working and working," Manuel said. "He's giving it a great shot. He can play a few different positions, and he's making a strong case to make the team. It's going to be a tough final decision. I'm going to sleep on the decision tonight and see what happens.

"Chris has worked very hard to get to this point. He's worth watching to the final minute."

Solid spring: The Phillies completed their Grapefruit League schedule with a 17-11 record.

Wins and losses don't necessarily mean a whole lot in Spring Training, but the winning mark didn't hurt, either.

"You like to win in any game," catcher Mike Lieberthal said. "It helps to build a winning attitude. I think it's a good sign for us."

Manuel also liked what he saw in the Grapefruit League.

"The guys were working and fighting hard every game to win," Manuel said. "That's what we want and how we want to build as the regular season starts."

First glance: Center fielder Aaron Rowand spent the day getting comfortable in his new ballpark. It was the first time that Rowand worked out at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm just excited to start the season," Rowand said. "I think the ballpark is great and I'm looking forward to contributing to this team in any way possible. I was brought here to help the team win and I'm going to do everything I can to help."

Quote of the day: "This is a loose group of guys, but it's also a group that will fight, claw and scratch for everything. I like to see that." -- Rowand

This and that: Several former Phillies attended the luncheon, including Garry Maddox, Dickie Noles and Larry Christenson.

Up next: The Phillies host the Boston Red Sox on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET in the first of two On-Deck Series games in as many days. Gavin Floyd oppposes Red Sox Minor League righty David Pauley in the opener.

Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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