Manuel eager to see what Phils can do in 2011

Manuel eager to see what Phils can do in 2011

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel recalls the incredible disappointment in the Phillies' clubhouse following their season-ending loss to the Giants in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

It's over?

It's really over?

"All of a sudden, somebody tells you that you got beat and you have to go home," Manuel said Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings at the Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel. "That doesn't sit too good. I think sometimes people forget how hard it is to win. Winning, there is nothing easy about winning.

"It's going to hurt you, but at the same time, you get over it. You get over it because you're looking forward to the next day and you're looking to go back out there and get better. I want to see us get better and go back out there and see who else we can beat. I'm still chasing those Yankees, if you want to know the truth."

The Phillies will be chasing the Yankees and everybody else without their best right-handed bat. Jayson Werth signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals, which has everybody wondering how exactly the Phils will replace him in the lineup.

"There is a chance we're going to miss Werth because he's a good player," Manuel said. "At the same time, somebody always steps up. The game keeps moving along. That's how I think. That's how we have to think. Werth beat somebody out. Jobs opened up where [Shane] Victorino got to play. You've got to go try to find somebody that's going to replace him. It's not like you have an excuse for not replacing him. No, we're going to find somebody to replace him."

Of course, the Phillies have said finding a replacement for Werth is not their top priority. They say improving the bullpen is.

There are outfielders available, but who are they interested in? And who would be an improvement over some combination of Ben Francisco, Domonic Brown and Ross Gload? Sources said the Phillies are not seriously pursuing Jeff Francoeur. Matt Diaz, who was drawing plenty of interest from teams, agreed to a two-year deal with the Pirates late Tuesday night. Josh Willingham is available in a trade, but the Nationals are looking for big league starting pitching and the Phils don't have anybody to trade other than Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick. But they are unlikely fits for the Nationals.

Names to watch include Scott Hairston, who is a free agent; and Juan Rivera, Aaron Rowand and Delmon Young, who could be had in a trade. Philadelphia has liked those players in the past.

Manuel stressed Brown will have a chance to win a job in Spring Training.

"Spring Training is going to be big for him," he said. "I just saw they took him out of winter ball. I'm not worried about that. I'm not worried about him getting off to a bad start. Spring Training is going to be real big for him. We're going to get a lot of work in with him. I think [hitting coach Greg Gross] and myself, we're going to work with him. He's going to get to play a lot. I definitely think he deserves a good chance, and he's going to get it. I'm not ready to send him to the Minor Leagues yet. I want to take a good look at him."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Francisco and Gload could be platooning in right field rather than Francisco and Brown, which would give Gload the majority of plate appearances playing against right-handed pitchers. But Manuel is concerned about Gload's defense, which indicates Manuel will give Brown every chance to win a job.

Manuel said he thinks Francisco could produce against left-handed pitchers, but he wants to see improvements next season.

"You've got to give him a chance," he said. "Ben can be a little more aggressive. He can create a little bit more energy. He's got to work a little harder in the outfield. What I'm saying is nothing I haven't talked to him about before. He's got to show that he can keep his job."

Manuel said he isn't too concerned about somebody hitting behind Ryan Howard. It could be Francisco. It could be Raul Ibanez against a right-handed pitcher. Jimmy Rollins could make sense, too.

But Manuel looked at the hole in the fifth spot a little differently. He said if the other hitters in the lineup improve from disappointing seasons in 2010, it should be less of an issue.

"We have to put together the kind of seasons that we're capable of having," he said.

Manuel said he thinks Howard's sprained left ankle was in worse shape that many believed. He thought it affected him at the plate, which cut his power numbers. Manuel expects those to improve.

He also expects better things from Rollins, who missed nearly half the season with injuries.

"Before the season was over I talked to Jimmy a few times about his season and what he's going to do," Manuel said. "He knows exactly what he has to do. He revealed to me that he wanted to play another six years. We talked about things that he had to do, and I told him how he's got to go about it. We'll see. ... He's had a couple of down seasons. I feel like he realizes how he can improve.

"First of all, he can make sure that he's strong, he's in good shape, he does his work, and he's ready to go. He can adapt better work ethics during the season. He knows all that. Then you get back to the point, how much does he want to? Can I push him? Yeah, I'll try. At the same time, he's the guy that's doing the playing."

If all those things come together, the Phillies should be chasing the Yankees again.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.