By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report/Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—Starting with this weekend’s series against the National League-East leading Braves, the Phillies 10-game homestand leading into the All-Star Break could determine whether the Phillies are going to be buyers or sellers at the July 31s trade deadline.
The Phillies (42-45) started their 10-game with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at Citizen’s Bank to move to within 7.5 games in the National League East.
“I think we’ll know a little bit more about our team after this homestand,” said general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. “I hope we’re adding to this rather than subtracting. That’s the goal. I always say the same thing the players and their play will dictate.”
Amaro said he’s fielded calls from teams from around baseball that are interested in some of the Phillies players. He didn’t mention the teams that inquired about the players in question. Amaro also said he’s been on the phone with teams during the last up
One of the players that could be on the trading block is second baseman Chase Utley. Amaro was quick to say he thinks of Utley as a “Phillie for life.” During the course of his confab with reporters, he said didn’t like to think of things in absolutes.
When a reporter asked him wasn’t the desire to make Utley a Phillie for life an absolute, Amaro response was, “No it’s not.” That basically means that no one is untouchable if a deal is good enough.
Throughout the season, the Phillies have been hovering around .500 and haven’t been to able to come up with a streak of wins that would put them back into contention in the division or wildcard race.
“We have to kick it in now,” said Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown, who’s hit 22 homeruns. “We’re definitely running out of time we got to get it going. We got the team to do it. We just have to keep going out and keep battling.”
The Phillies are coming off a 10-game road trip in which they finished .500, but probably could have won more games if not for the struggling bullpen, gaffs in the field or just not hitting at the plate.
“We’re playing .500 baseball and we’re under .500, that’s really not good enough, especially with the guys we have in here.” Brown said. “We’ve got to get it going.”
The general frustration among the players, coaches and even Charlie Manuel is that the Phillies are better than their current record. Though Manuel wants to see his team to show it on the field on a more consistent basis.
“Do I think we’re better? I don’t know, I’m trying to find out,” Manuel said. “I think we got to get better if we’re going to win. I can answer that, but there are some things I don’t want to answer right now.”
Perhaps the maddening thing about the 2013 Phillies is that they have played well enough at times to have fans thinking that they are about to explode into a hot streak that would put the team back in contention.
“When we go on a hot stretch, we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” said center fielder Ben Revere.
And there are those times when the Phillies can’t get out of the way of themselves. They have followed up winning streaks with a string of games in which one or two aspects of the game is so out of whack that they will lose two or three games in a row.
“They’re a little enigmatic I think, “ Amaro said “They’re a bit of an enigma, but we’ll see we’ll find out more after this homestand. The next 10 days, we’ll see.”
One area that definitely needs improvement is the Phillies bullpen, which has blown leads this season or let leads by the other team get even larger. That’s something that doesn’t sit too well with the Phillies general manager.
Amaro said if the team is contending by the time the trade deadline rolls around at the month, shoring up a suspect bullpen would definitely be a priority.
“I think it needs to improve,” Amaro said. “They need to show progress.”