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Manuel, Sandberg emphasize structured practice

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Manuel, Sandberg emphasize structured practice play video for Manuel, Sandberg emphasize structured practice

PHILADELPHIA -- Big leaguers need practice, too.

But organized infield and outfield work during the season had become so sporadic that any structured pregame practice at all stood out like a sore thumb. The Phillies picked up those sessions a bit following last season's July 31 Trade Deadline, but they typically were limited to the first game of every home series.

That is changing. They already had practices Friday and Saturday and have another scheduled Monday, as Phillies third-base coach and infield instructor Ryne Sandberg makes them part of the team's routine. He said they will be 20-minute sessions as needed and as he sees fit before home games.

"That's what I do," Sandberg said. "That's what I like to see happen. It's a stress on defense. It allows us to have time to work on things. It'll be something that will be stressed throughout the whole year."

The Phillies took ground balls regularly in the past, but it typically occurred during batting practice. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel calls this a more structured, more hands-on setup that allows for more discussion and teaching. The sessions are mandatory.

Manuel likes it.

"The fact it is more organized, it gives you time to talk to get your points across as far as mistakes we've made or things we want to improve on," Manuel said. "It's a little bit stricter coaching and I like that. I like everything about that."

But structured practices do seem to be a rare occurrence in baseball these days, not only with the Phillies, but every team.

"I don't think getting away from it is a good thing," Sandberg said. "Having it is a very positive thing. In my day we took infield every day, except for day games. I think it's something that's necessary to stay sharp and stay on top of things. We'll also have the outfielders join us and throw to the bases, probably twice a homestand or something like that.

"It's for everybody to stay sharp on defense. It's a big part of the game. To work on it and stress it becomes important."

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

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