Manuel: Phillies Still “The Team To Beat”

Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel is confident in the 5-time defending NL East champs

Charlie Manuel and the Phillies were back in Philly Sunday night and the skipper says he’s excited to defend the National League East crown.

“I think we’re the team to beat until somebody beats us and I think it’s up to us to not let somebody do that,” Manuel responded when asked by NBC10’s John Clark on Sports Final if the Phils were still the team to beat.

The Phillies manager knows a thing or two about winning his team’s division. He is a six-time division champ (including an AL Central crown with the Indians) and Manuel has never guided a team to worse than a second-place in his 10 full seasons as a manger.

So when Charlie says something like the Phils are “the team to beat” it might mean a little more than when most others say it including soothsayer Jimmy Rollins, who once again this season beat his skipper to the “Team to Beat” party.

Manuel says his team needs to show off their “heart and desire” to stay atop a revamped NL East and that they’ve been ready to go for a little while already.

“I felt that like about week ago we were ready to go both physically and mentally.”

Charlie also gave some hints to a possible lineup including Juan Pierre batting leadoff, Rollins batting third and Jim Thome possibly playing up to three times a week at first base.

“I think with the speed up in front I think that Jimmy becomes a much better RBI guy… he’s strong enough and more likely if he gets a solid season under his belt he’s going to hit us about .280, .290 and 20 to 25 homers so why shouldn’t he hit there.”

Charlie also hopes to have Chase Utley (knees) back in May and Ran Howard (Achilles) back in the lineup sometime in June.

The Phillies play two warm-up games against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park Monday and Tuesday before the cross-state rivals cross Pennsylvania to open the regular season Thursday in Pittsburgh.

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