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Strong first-half finish gives Phils incentive to buy

Strong first-half finish gives Phils incentive to buy

Strong first-half finish gives Phils incentive to buy

PHILADELPHIA -- The only thing that matters for the Phillies is the next 10 games.

Play well in the 10 games following the All-Star break and the Phillies could be buyers before the July 31 Trade Deadline, or at the very least stand pat. Play poorly and any number of players could be traded to contenders in the next couple of weeks. It is a list that includes Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz, Michael Young and Delmon Young.

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Club breakdowns
First-half highlights

The team's prospects can change by the day, but they open the second half of their season on Friday against the Mets at Citi Field as buyers, following a 9-4 run before the break.

"I think we made a statement that if we are going to be a contender and we're going to win our division or a Wild Card, we still need some help," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

The Phillies need a center fielder with Ben Revere on the disabled list with a broken right ankle. He had surgery on Tuesday and could miss six to eight weeks.

The Phillies also need relief pitchers. Their bullpen has been one of the worst in baseball.

It was an interesting first half for the Phillies. They lost Roy Halladay to a shoulder injury in early May. They lost Utley and Ruiz in late May to a strained oblique and strained hamstring, respectively. They lost setup man Mike Adams to a shoulder injury in late June and Ryan Howard to knee surgery in early July.

They showed some resiliency, finishing strong before the break with everything seemingly collapsing around them, but they still showed they have holes.

First-half awards
MVP: Domonic Brown From question mark to All-Star, Brown has emerged as one of the better run producers in baseball.
Cy Young: Cliff Lee Lee reached his fourth All-Star Game based on a strong first half with the Phillies.
Rookie: Jonathan Pettibone He has more than held his own pitching in the place of injured ace Roy Halladay.
Top reliever: Jonathan Papelbon Despite on rough stretch, Papelbon has been nearly automatic this season.

"That's been going on for years, someone going down, someone stepping up," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "You can always look back and say we could have been in better shape, but we are where we are and we didn't fold up shop. It's a good way to go into [second half].

"It took a while for us to come together, learn each other with new faces, but it's starting to work out."

The Phillies banked on a healthy Utley and Howard bringing the club back into contention in 2013. The season did not start that way, but the offense is showing signs of life, and Cole Hamels has rebounded from a nightmarish beginning to the season.

If the offense can continue to hit -- losing Revere is a blow -- and the pitching improves, the Phillies should be able to take a run at the National League East title. The first-place Braves are vulnerable. Since starting the season 12-1, they are now 42-40. The Phillies are 42-40 in that same stretch, while the Nationals are 40-41.

It could be anybody's division.

"We aren't in first place, so it doesn't matter how far back in that regard," Rollins said. "But we are in the race."

Players to watch in second half
Cole Hamels Hamels had a first half he would like to forget. They need him to bounce back in the second half
Darin Ruf He is playing in place of Ryan Howard, who is recovering from left knee surgery. Can Ruf fill the void?
Jimmy Rollins The Phillies need more production offensively from their former MVP.

The second half carries long-term implications, too. If Halladay returns and finishes strong, the Phillies could try to bring him back in 2014. If the team finishes strong, Halladay and Utley, both of whom are free agents after the season, could decide they want to continue their careers here.

"The last month or so, I feel like we've played some pretty good baseball," Utley said. "On the road trip [before the break], we didn't win as many games as we would have liked, but you were there. You saw it. There was still good baseball being played. We had a chance to win. We had a chance to win the majority of them.

"Yeah, obviously winning is an important part of what I want to do with my future. But I think there definitely are some pieces in this room that can win."

A good start to the second half could go a long way.

"If you come to the ball park every day with 25 guys, and the biggest part of them want to play, and they really are concentrating on playing the game the right way, and enjoying it and getting after it, you'd be surprised at what you can do," Manuel said. "In baseball sometimes, that's how you've got to look at it. That doesn't mean that you're not going to win something. It takes a good team to win, and it takes good players and things like that. You've got to have enough to win and things like that. Like I said before, we're still playing to see how good we really are."

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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