Notes: History says don't worry
Manuel says positive thinking, not pressing keys for Phils
MIAMI -- The Elias Sports Bureau, which can tell you virtually anything you might want to know about baseball history, offers an optimistic nugget to Phillies fans who may already be in panic mode about the team's 0-3 start. In two of the Phillies' last five division-winning seasons, 1977 and 1983, they got off to 0-3 beginnings, Elias found.
That, of course, doesn't mean that manager Charlie Manuel is taking the poor start with anything close to a yawn as the Phillies commenced a three-game series with the Marlins on Friday night at Dolphin Stadium.
Manuel said the Phillies need to win as soon as they can to stem what could turn into a albatross. He compares the winless start to a team that goes a certain number of games without hitting a home run.
"Before long, [people think] you can't hit home runs any more," Manuel said. "It's the same way with wins. We need to win a game. The biggest thing is we don't want to get too far behind, like we have in the last couple of years."
The manager was asked if some of his players might be a little down after getting swept in the season-opening series by the Braves. "They better not be down," he blurted. "We're just getting started."
That launched Manuel into a story about how he learned to operate with a positive attitude instead of a negative one. He said he never was a distinguished player, but had a way of always making things worse with his attitude.
"I didn't really know how negative I was," he said. "I'd say, 'I haven't had a hit for a week, and this guy here is throwing 95 or 100 [mph]. How am I supposed to get a hit off him?' I was out before I got in the batter's box."
One day in 1971, after Manuel had been demoted to the Minor Leagues by the Twins, celebrated pitcher Lefty Gomez came over to him and offered this life-altering advice: "You've got to change your thinking from negative to positive. Once you start taking that outlook, you'll start playing better."
Not long afterward, Manuel hit two home runs in a game -- the second one on a 2-0 curveball after surmising that the pitcher didn't want to walk him but didn't want to give him a room-service fastball, either -- and was promoted back to the Twins.
Manuel's success as a player turned out to be relatively short-lived, but the speech about positive thinking remains very relevant in his present work.
"When you get going, you've got to stay at it," he said. "You don't panic, you don't get down, you don't get negative. It's hard to play baseball that way. In fact, I don't know anything you can do that way."
Manuel acknowledged, upon questioning, that "some of our players" tend to press too much during home games. "When you try too hard, you're pressing," he said, "and some of our guys are. We get back to the win thing again. We haven't won in a long time."
Manuel said when a player has high expectations of himself, plays hard and is focused, that usually produces a positive result.
New reliever delayed: Right-handed reliever Francisco Rosario, acquired Thursday from Toronto for cash, is not expected to join the club until Sunday or Monday, according to Manuel.
In these days with a lot of money usually at stake, a player must be given a thorough physical before he can play for his new team. Even when Rosario does arrive, Manuel expects him to throw two bullpen sessions before pitching in a game.
Rosario, 26, was 1-2 last season with a 6.65 ERA for the Blue Jays in 17 games, one of them a start. The Phillies were moved to acquire him after he went 1-0 this spring, with a 3.00 ERA and nine strikeouts in nine innings.
Rosario is expected to be used as a middle reliever.
Pat Gillick, the Phillies' general manager, said it has become much more difficult these days to find capable relievers. He cited, as an example, that the Braves traded away a first baseman in Adam LaRoche -- who hit 32 home runs last year -- for Pirates closer Mike Gonzalez.
"There's not a lot of guys out there," Gillick said. "When someone gets [a good] one, they don't want to relinquish him."
Lieber could return soon: Right-hander Jon Lieber, who was told before he was sidelined with a right oblique strain that he might henceforth be used as reliever, may return to the Phillies as soon as Monday, according to pitching coach Rich Dubee.
Lieber threw 3 2/3 innings Friday night against Dunedin, yielding four hits and two runs, one of them unearned. He struck out four, and if he feels fine Saturday, he'll likely be sent back to the Major Leagues, Dubee said.
"I would say right now he's in the bullpen," Manuel said when asked what role Lieber would play.
Lieber is 126-115 with a 4.26 ERA as primarily a Major League starter. The 37-year-old has started 361 games.
Garcia arrives; Bauer signed: Rehabbing right-hander Freddie Garcia made a surprise appearance in the Phillies clubhouse about three hours before Friday night's game. He came in carrying a huge bag over his shoulder.
"Hey, we've got a new teammate," one player yelled. Said another, "He looks bigger, like he's been weight-lifting."
Actually Garcia was there to work with the club's trainers and talk to teammates. After pitching 3 1/3 shutout innings Thursday with Clearwater, with seven strikeouts, Garcia could be close to a return to the Phillies. He is scheduled to pitch April 10 for Clearwater against Dunedin, Dubee said, and if all goes well, he may pitch for the Phillies on April 15.
"I've seen him on tape," Dubee said. "It's very encouraging."
In another development, the Phillies signed 30-year-old Rich Bauer to a Minor League contract. He was 3-1 with two saves and a 3.55 ERA for Texas last season.
"He's an inventory guy," Gillick said. "We want to have more people in case somebody goes down."
Up next: Right-hander Brett Myers, who allowed four hits and three runs in 7 2/3 innings in his debut against Atlanta, will pitch in Saturday's 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Marlins. The hosts will go with their ace as well -- lefty Dontrelle Willis, who beat Washington in his season debut.
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.