3 Philadelphia Phillies They're young and they're restless, and maybe, just maybe, they're ready

March 27, 2000

The Phillies should know by May if they've finally grown up.
Their lineup includes some of the most potent young bats in the
game, but younger isn't always better, as they found out last
year.

Of their first 38 games this season, 21 are against teams that
made the playoffs last year and must be played without ace Curt
Schilling, who is expected to miss the opening six weeks while
recovering from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Schilling is eager
to see how his teammates perform without him. "If we don't do
well, then my return is not going to matter," he says. "If my
absence causes us to fall out of contention, then we're not
contenders anyway."

Last August the Phillies were 13 games over .500 and contending
for the wild-card slot; then third baseman Scott Rolen (lower
back strain) and Schilling were lost for the season. The Phillies
went on to lose 29 of 36, finishing with their 12th losing record
in 13 years and more losses (823) in the decade than any other NL
team. The Phillies believe the collapse was due to a lack of
maturity, not a lack of talent. "When you're a young player,
you're more concerned with your personal goals and trying to
establish yourself at the major league level," says 28-year-old
All-Star catcher Mike Lieberthal, a Gold Glover who hit 31 home
runs last year. "Once you've put up the stats, then you're more
concerned with looking out for your teammates and winning."

During the off-season the front office added some instant
seasoning, signing 35-year-old free-agent closer Mike Jackson and
trading for 32-year-old Andy Ashby, who becomes the staff's ace
in Schilling's absence. The Phillies were able to sign Jackson
after the Indians and the Cardinals were scared off by his
painful history of knee, shoulder and elbow problems. Jackson had
39 saves last year, but his ERA was 4.06. If healthy, he'll allow
27-year-old Wayne Gomes, who struggled as a part-time closer last
year (56 walks in 74 innings), to continue developing as a set-up
man. "I know how to handle adversity, and I know how to handle
the good times," says Jackson, who like Ashby is on his second
tour of duty with the Phillies. "I think I still have what it
takes to get the job done."

The Phillies traded reliever Steve Montgomery and two former No.
1 picks--pitchers Carlton Loewer (1994) and Adam Eaton
(1996)--for Ashby, who was an All-Star in San Diego the last two
seasons. Schilling is at last joined by a proven winner and
200-inning man, but the partnership may not last long: Ashby can
become a free agent at the end of the season and has indicated
he wants to see how good this team is before he re-signs. If he
does choose to stay, the Phillies will have to give him the
richest deal in team history, at least $8 million per year. The
good news here is that the club can afford to pay him; ownership
raised the payroll from $30 million to $45 million this year.
"Bringing in Jackson and Ashby shows our ball club that the
front office is serious. I've heard a lot of our players mention
that," says Terry Francona, who in his fourth season is still
the youngest manager in baseball at age 40.

If the Phillies are going to be a factor in September, they must
get more from starter Paul Byrd, who was invited to the All-Star
Game last year with 11 wins but went 4-6, with a 5.61 ERA the
rest of the way. They also need Robert Person to have a full
season as good as the second half he had last year, when he won
10 games.

Francona also wants to see defensive improvement from second
baseman Marlon Anderson and shortstop Desi Relaford, who was out
more than two months last season after wrist surgery. "They are
the biggest key to our season," Francona says. "When the ball is
hit to them late in the game, everyone in the ballpark has to
know it's an out. That wasn't always the case last year."

This is a hustling team that knows how to run the bases and hit
the cutoff man, and if minor league slugger Pat Burrell gets
called up midseason--as anticipated--he could make a strong
lineup even stronger. Lieberthal, Rolen, rightfielder Bobby
Abreu and centerfielder Doug Glanville have proved themselves to
be among the game's best young hitters. Rolen, who hit 26 homers
in just 112 games last year, is a reader of Dostoyevsky and
Tolstoy, and when the Phillies are in San Francisco, you can
find him exploring the bookstores and New Age shops in the
Haight-Ashbury district. His mission: to find himself. "It's a
constant search," he says, "but I figure I have as good a chance
as anyone."

The Phillies have that same mission and that same sense of
optimism, but not as much time. "Sometime around May we're going
to be getting a great pitcher," Francona says of Schilling. "I
think we have a pretty good ball club, and now it's time for us
to go out and show it."

--Ian Thomsen

COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE ALL CAUGHT UP The Phillies took some heat for making Lieberthal the third selection in the 1990 draft, but he's now one of their mainstays. COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON

around the Horn

OFFENSE
[4 stars]
DEFENSE
[4 stars]
STARTING PITCHING
[3 stars]
BULLPEN
[2 1/2 stars]
MANAGER
[3 stars]

by the numbers

1999 Team Statistics (NL rank)

Batting average .275 (4)
Runs scored 841 (6)
Home runs 161 (14)

1999 record: 77-85 (third in NL East)

Opponents' batting average .269 (10)
ERA 4.92 (13)
Fielding percentage .983 (2)

next up...

He was the 25th pitcher taken in the 1997 draft, but only two of
the pitchers chosen ahead of him--Jim Parque (White Sox) and Ryan
Bradley (Yankees)--made it to the majors faster than Randy Wolf.
The 23-year-old lefty won his first five decisions after being
called up in June '99, then lost eight in a row to finish 6-9,
with a 5.55 ERA. "When things went well, I was keeping things
simple," says Wolf. "Then I started making things more
complicated than they had to be. I was trying to be perfect." The
Phillies fans tried to boo him off the mound in the midst of his
slump, but Wolf has been through worse: He was a boy when his
father died, and then he nearly drowned as a teen. "You're not
going to learn without having bad things happen," Wolf says.
"Luckily, I don't hear things when I pitch."

the lineup
projected roster with 1999 statistics

Manager: Terry Francona (fourth season with Philadelphia)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

CF Doug Glanville R 66 .325 11 73 34
LF Ron Gant R 189 .260 17 77 13
RF Bobby Abreu L-R 19 .335 20 93 27
3B Scott Rolen R 62 .268 26 77 12
1B Rico Brogna L 129 .278 24 102 8
C Mike Lieberthal R 52 .300 31 96 0
2B Marlon Anderson L-R 251 .252 5 54 13
SS Desi Relaford S-R 295 .242 1 26 4

BENCH

OF Rob Ducey L-R 279 .261 8 33 2
IF Alex Arias R 314 .303 4 48 2
IF Kevin Jordan R 321 .285 4 51 0
OF Kevin Sefcik R 343 .278 1 11 9
C Tom Prince R 412 .167 0 0 0

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Curt Schilling* 42 15 6 7.5 1.13 3.54
RH Andy Ashby[1] 36 14 10 6.6 1.25 3.80
RH Paul Byrd 64 15 11 6.2 1.38 4.60
RH Robert Person[2] 104 10 7 5.7 1.45 4.68
LH Randy Wolf 156 6 9 5.7 1.58 5.44

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Mike Jackson[1] 31 3 4 39 1.26 4.06
RH Wayne Gomes 167 5 5 19 1.70 4.26
RH Carlos Reyes[1] 290 2 4 1 1.92 3.72
LH Scott Aldred[2] 297 4 3 1 1.57 4.45
RH Jeff Brantley 316 1 2 5 1.59 5.19
RH Chris Brock[1] 279 6 8 0 1.55 5.48

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 164)
*Will begin season on DL
[2] Combined AL and NL stats

the book
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Phillies

Andy Ashby was a good pickup for them. He'll give them innings,
and when Curt Schilling comes back, they'll have a solid one-two
combination at the top of the rotation.... Closer Mike Jackson
always seems to have questions about his elbow, but if he's
healthy, he's got one of the best sliders around and can run his
fastball in on righthanders.... Carlos Reyes can help their
bullpen. If he hit you between the eyes with his fastball, he
couldn't blacken an eye--he throws in the mid-80s--but he's got
outstanding off-speed stuff and knows how to pitch.... Every
time the ball is hit to shortstop Desi Relaford or second
baseman Marlon Anderson, manager Terry Francona has to cringe.
Relaford has good tools but is very inconsistent. Anderson makes
too many mistakes, doesn't turn the double play well. He can hit
and he can run, but his running doesn't translate into extra
bases.... Third baseman Scott Rolen looks like he's still
hurt.... Rightfielder Bobby Abreu, who can run, hit, hit for
power and has a great throwing arm, will be the star of this team.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)