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02/27/12 4:00 PM EST

Manuel wants more bunting this season

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel hears a lot of people talk about small ball these days.

The way some people talk about it, it sounds like they want the Phillies to bunt in every inning of every game. Mix in a few hit-and-runs and -- poof -- the Phillies finish the season 162-0. That obviously is the extreme, but the Phillies certainly could stand to bunt a little bit more in 2012. They had just eight bunt hits last season, which were the fewest in the National League.

The Phillies have not been a bunt-for-a-hit team in recent seasons. They ranked 13th in bunt hits in 2010 (eight), 16th in '09 (five), 10th in '08 (14) and 13th in '07 (12).

Manuel wants more bunting in 2012.

"I was talking [to our coaches] today," Manuel said Monday. "We're going to do more bunting sessions. We're going to get [Shane Victorino] and Jimmy [Rollins] and [Juan] Pierre and [Michael] Martinez. ... If Victorino bunted 15-20 times a year and got both of the corners up, the balls he slices and hits hard, there are more ground balls that go through the infield."

Schmidt wants to believe Braun is innocent

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ryan Braun's successful appeal of a drug test that would have resulted in a 50-game suspension for using a performance enhancing substance raised more than a few eyebrows in the baseball world, even if most players are remaining quiet on the topic.

But Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt shared his thoughts Monday at Bright House Field.

"Good lawyering," he said of Braun's successful appeal. "I don't know that innocence or guilt has been established at this point in time. I surely would like to believe in innocence, because Ryan Braun is a good kid, from my perspective. We worked together in the World Baseball Classic and I got to know him. I surely hope that everything he says about it not being true is the truth. But just the fact that he was exonerated does not mean that they've gotten to the truth, unfortunately."

Contreras takes another positive step forward

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right-hander Jose Contreras threw a bullpen session Monday, and it went well.

Contreras is coming back following right elbow surgery. While other pitchers in camp are throwing off a mound every other day, Contreras is getting two days' rest in between his bullpen sessions. So while he is not on schedule with other pitchers in camp, it is not out of the question he could be ready by Opening Day.

"He's where we hoped he'd be at," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "That's always good to see."

Thome has Schmidt's support for Hall

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jim Thome enters the 2012 season with 604 home runs, ranking eighth on baseball's all-time list.

Mike Schmidt hit 548 home runs, which ranks 15th. Schmidt is a big Thome fan.

"How do you describe Jim Thome?" Schmidt said. "First of all, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I guess maybe Jim kind of gets overlooked when you're talking about the all-time great hitters, and he should not ever be overlooked.

"His personality, he's a quiet guy, quiet family man. He doesn't bring a lot of attention to himself. He keeps things simple in his interviews. He's a pretty simple guy. Very clean career and life. He's stayed out of the headlines. Having said that, Jim's power numbers far surpass mine. So whatever you rate me in history as an offensive player, he's better.

"The only difference between me and him is I was sort of a skill-position player, so on the defensive side, I probably have some plusses in that part of my game. You've got to rate him quite high."

Worth noting

Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, who missed a bullpen session last week because of a sore ab muscle, is scheduled to throw live batting practice Tuesday. ... The Phillies open their Grapefruit League schedule Saturday against the New York Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET, in a game that will be broadcast on MLB.TV. The Phillies have not announced a starting pitcher.

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