For Manuel, it's steady as she goes

For Manuel, it's steady as she goes

ATLANTA -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has had several challenges in 2009, with perhaps the greatest keeping a team that reached the pinnacle of its sport focused and motivated to reach the top again.

And that is not easy.

"But we've had a couple different challenges," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "Health-wise and performance-wise, early in the year, our rotation was terrible. We were not pitching very well. The fact that Brad [Lidge] has had the problems that he has had, those have all been a challenge for him.

"I've always said, Charlie is very steady. I bet off the field, he's a heck of a poker player, because he's got to be thinking of a lot of things on his mind, and yet his outward demeanor is always very steady and very controlled. He's the same guy every day to the players, and that's very, very important."

Pulse
Phillies at a glance
2009 record: 93-69
2008 record: 92-70
NL East champs
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Information

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Madson: Back in business
Werth: Heart of the order
Rollins: Awaiting breakout
Focus: One game at a time
Manuel: Mix & match
Howard: Ready for lefties
Stairs: Shot reverberates
Manuel: New rules for 'pen
Blanton: Arm around team
Pedro: Return to spotlight
Ibanez: Eyes on prize
Rollins: '07 irrelevant
Lidge: Still an option
Lidge: Killer cutter
Roster: Mulling options
Ibanez: Perfect fit
Hamels: Path of the pros
Amaro: Bold decisions
Pedro: Elated to play part
Rollins: No more predictions
Hamels: Back in business
Pitching: Staff in flux
Manuel: Keeps 'em focused
Hamels: Aims for dominance
Lineup: Imperfect but solid
Lee: Ready for playoff debut
Howard: The evolution
Rollins: Excelling on defense
Rotation: Not just big two
Manuel: Steady as she goes
Rollins: Eyes on '09 drama
Howard: The 'Big Piece'
Lee: Lifting Phils' hopes

Manuel is the second manager in franchise history to lead the Phillies to a World Series championship. Dallas Green won the first in 1980. Manuel enters Saturday's middle game against the Braves at Turner Field with a 440-354 (.554) record in four-plus seasons with the Phillies. His 440 victories rank fourth on the franchise list. He needs 154 more victories to tie Danny Ozark (1973-79) for third place. Ozark has 594.

Manuel has had a couple of tough decisions this season. Fans begged Manuel to drop Jimmy Rollins in the lineup while he struggled through early July. Manuel refused. He instead benched Rollins for four games in late June.

A short time later, Rollins pulled out of his slump.

Manuel also stuck with Lidge as his only closer until recently, despite the fact he had blown a Major League-leading 10 saves and has a 7.21 ERA. Manuel recently has had right-hander Ryan Madson close games, feeling the Phillies need to get Lidge straightened out in less stressful situations before the postseason begins in 2 1/2 weeks.

"Typical Charlie," Amaro said. "I think he's handled them extremely well. I think Charlie gains the respect of his players daily, and I think he motivates them in a way that to some who are impatient might find disconcerting. But people who understand the pace of this game and length of this season, he does a great job.

"The point is that he's very, very steady. All you have to do is key on him in the dugout during the course of the game. The sky could be falling and he's very, very steady."

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