Manuel says NL East toughest division

Manuel says NL East toughest division

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel spoke at length during his daily media briefing Sunday about the increased competition in the National League East, which he expects to be the Majors' most competitive division this season.

Manuel pointed to the blockbuster offseason moves by the Nationals and Marlins, as well as the Braves' young, talented pitching. He admitted the Mets could "have a tough time," but expects them to be a challenge nonetheless.

Manuel said he wasn't surprised by any of the Marlins' or Nationals' big acquisitions, and he thought Washington might be even more aggressive in pursuing players like Yu Darvish and Ryan Madson.

"I think we've got the best division, definitely, as far as competition," Manuel said. "I think the National League East is probably the best-balanced league in baseball. I know the Yankees and Boston and [Rays] might argue with that, but I think every team in our league is capable of beating you."

But Manuel doesn't look at the tougher division as being an entirely negative thing for his club.

"I think it can help us play better," Manuel said. "We've got to outplay them to win the division."