Manuel: Phils still team to beat in NL East

Manuel: Phils still team to beat in NL East

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies are missing two big offensive pieces, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Their nucleus is a year older. But after five straight National League East titles, manager Charlie Manuel believes one thing hasn't changed.

"I think until somebody beats us, we're the team to beat. That's what I think," Manuel said before the Phillies and Braves tied, 7-7, in Philadelphia's Grapefruit League finale at Champion Stadium on Sunday. "We ain't going to lay down for anybody. We've got a bunch of guys that like to play. You can smack us. We're not going to turn the other cheek. We're going to fight you back. We ain't going to lay down and die. We've got some guys on our team that are going to make sure of that."

He's aware that some have begun to wonder if the Phillies are vulnerable because of injuries or if success has made them complacent.

"You can say whatever you want to say. It's up to us to make sure we handle our business. As a matter of fact, I like it when they talk a lot about us, really. That definitely might have something to do with motivating us, too."

Noting that players like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Jim Thome came to the Phillies primarily to try to win the World Series that has so far eluded them, he added:

"I think some of the guys we've had definitely have that. I think that's why we keep winning. But at the same time, the thing you have to be careful of, the pieces you add, when you add a whole lot, you have to remember some of those guys haven't been used to winning. A winning player is different than a guy who has always been in the second division, and they've got to come into the fold, too. Sometimes that takes a little while."