Sandberg talks areas for Phillies to improve

Sandberg talks areas for Phillies to improve

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg sees what general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sees when they study the Phils' roster.

Sandberg believes the Phillies can hit, if they are healthy. He believes they can win. But he knows they need more starting pitching to make it happen.

"I'd like to add two starting pitchers in the mix," Sandberg said Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings. "It would be a big plus to get through a long season. I think that's necessary. But to add to what we have is definitely a top priority right now."

And that means not trading Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. There were rumors Tuesday that the Phillies were listening to offers for their aces. Asked if the Phils could win without one of them, Sandberg said, "I believe that [the rumors are] not true, so I don't even need to speculate the other direction there."

Sandberg discussed numerous topics during his 30-minute session with reporters, his first Winter Meetings media session as a big league skipper.

On having more balance in the lineup and hitting better against left-handed pitching: "I think that hurt us last year. We weren't a good offensive team against left-handed pitching. I think Marlon Byrd coming in is a big plus. Can he bat at the top of the lineup? He can bat three, four, five.

"Having [Carlos] Ruiz back, he's hit in the middle of the lineup before. He has that capability. But Byrd is very good against left-handed pitching. Jimmy Rollins, [being a] switch-hitter will come into play. [Ben] Revere, with his speed, he made good adjustments before he got hurt for about six weeks, getting his average up to .300, and he hit well against left-handed pitching.

"I think Chase Utley battles his at-bats against lefties. Darin Ruf could be in the mix as a guy getting some starts in there. Freddy Galvis is a switch-hitter. So I think going into this year, we have a chance to be much improved against left-handed pitching."

On improving the bench: "A right-handed bat, the defense with depth at center field would be a plus for us. It would be a good option to mix in if that guy's out there. I wouldn't say that the bench is totally solidified right now. But I could see a piece for the bench to improve center field, the right-handed bat."

On backup catcher Wil Nieves : "Nieves is very good behind the plate. Really good at game calling, and has been known to handle pitchers very well. So that's his strength. Anything with the bat would be a plus, but his throwing and catching skills and calling a game, handling the pitching staff is a plus."

On top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle getting a look in Spring Training: "I know that he's still a back-burner type of possibility. But I'm anxious to see what he has. But to have him come to camp -- I'm not sure he's coming to camp yet -- but if he's coming to camp, he'd be a guy to gain experience."

On Rollins bouncing back from the worst offensive season of his career: "I saw progress over the last six weeks of our games, with him using the middle of the diamond and some of the opposite field a little bit more, getting on base with that approach. I think he laid off some bad pitches and drew some walks and became a baserunner.

"Batting second and first, that is key for him and key for the team, is for Jimmy Rollins to get on base and use his baserunning skills. He did pop a home run, one or two in there somewhere as just a reaction thing, which I don't think he was trying to do at the time.

"But I saw him at an Eagles game about three weeks ago. He was looking forward to the changes and the direction of the team. The younger players that came up and did a nice job, and the young arms in the bullpen showed promise. So I think there were a lot of good things that he was talking about, and I was talking to him about."

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