Notes: Manuel tells players to relax

Notes: Manuel tells players to relax

CINCINNATI -- Before Saturday night's game against the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Saturday, manager Charlie Manuel decided it was time for a closed-door meeting after the team's 4-11 start, worst in the Major Leagues.

Manuel described the meeting as "calm," and a good time to get feedback from players.

It was also extremely long.

"Once we got into it, it was going pretty good, so I figured there was no sense in cutting it off," Manuel said.

It went long enough in fact, that the Phils did not take the field for their scheduled batting practice, although they did get some swings in the clubhouse batting cage before game time.

What were the topics addressed?

"We need to get better with runners in scoring position," the skipper stated simply. "They need to relax and hit like they would hit when nobody was on. [They need to work on] not being tense, and don't let the fear of failure set in on you."

The mental state that the Phils need to be in seemed to be a prevalent issue with third-year Philadelphia manager.

"We're going to [change the mind-set], because we're going to beat that guy out there, and be more upbeat about winning a game and beating people," Manuel said.

"We've got to forget about that 4-11. We know where were at and we know what we have to do. [The players] want to show how good they are," Manuel said.

No Howard means new lineup: National League MVP Ryan Howard didn't get the green light to take the field for the Phils on Saturday evening, marking his third straight game on the bench due to a sprained ligament in his left leg. Manuel expects Howard to start Sunday's series finale.

Howard was expected to be available to pinch-hit Saturday.

In Howard's absence, the lineup did receive a shakeup.

For the first time this season, shortstop Jimmy Rollins was not leading off. Right fielder Shane Victorino moved to the top spot and center fielder Aaron Rowand locked down the two hole. Rollins moved to third, and Chase Utley was batting cleanup.

"I wanted to get as many right-handed hitters up there as I could to see if we could get some runs," Manuel reasoned.

Manuel believed Rollins would be back leading off Sunday.

Rockin' Rowand: Rowand leads the team with a .352 batting average, which was also sixth best in the National League heading into Saturday's action.

He connected on his first home run of the year Thursday. He hit a ball off the wall for a double Wednesday, and was the only Phillies player to have a multi-hit game in Friday night's loss.

Up next: Newcomer Freddy Garcia will look to notch his first win with the Phils on Sunday after dropping his first start. The Reds will counter with converted reliever Matt Belisle, who is 2-0 on the season. First pitch is set for 1:15 p.m. ET from Great American Ball Park.

Brian Connors Manke is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.