9/16/2013 7:49 P.M. ET
Phils may target righty with pop to balance '14 lineup
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- If Cody Asche is the Opening Day third baseman in 2014 and everybody else returns as expected, the Phillies will have five left-handed hitters in their lineup: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Asche.
The Phillies need at least one right-handed bat with pop.
There is some buzz about free-agent Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, but one source said he does not seem to be a fit. Abreu is not a candidate to play the outfield, which is a likely requirement for a few reasons.
First, Ryan Howard has three years and $85 million remaining on his contract. Second, the organization already has Darin Ruf, who can play first base, and top prospect Maikel Franco, who has been learning the position. Both are right-handed hitters with power.
If Abreu cannot play the outfield, it would make little sense to spend money on him with so many other holes to fill, and Howard, Ruf and Franco already in the picture.
Ruf could fill a void in the lineup next season, either in the outfield or at first base against tough left-handed pitchers.
"I think there is still some determination to be made there," Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg said about a right-handed power bat. "[Ruf] has shown that he can swing the bat and swing for power. That's another area that needs to be addressed."
Sandberg focused on strong finish, not next season
PHILADELPHIA -- The smart bet remains the same: Ryne Sandberg will be Phillies manager next season.
Of course, nothing has been finalized and anything could happen in the coming weeks, but Sandberg reiterated Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park he has no expectations regarding a decision from the front office.
"There hasn't been any indication or any word or anything," Sandberg said before the Phillies' series opener against the Marlins. "No, I'm just focused on what I'm doing here and the games to be played, getting the players in there as much as I can, making up a lineup to win a baseball game. I want to win as many games as we can, finish strong, finish on a positive note, a good note, all those things."
The Phillies are 16-13 since Sandberg replaced Charlie Manuel on Aug. 16. Reviews from players inside the clubhouse and around the organization have been positive.
If Sandberg lands the job, he might have decisions to make regarding the coaching staff. Asked if he is evaluating the coaching staff in the event he might get the job, he said, "No, I'm not doing that at all. I'm just taking it a game at a time, and focused on the game and the season at hand here. That's not part of what I'm doing right now."
Sandberg says relievers stepping up can fill 2014 holes
PHILADELPHIA -- Ryne Sandberg said he isn't thinking about his future, but he is thinking about the 2014 roster.
The Phillies have holes to fill.
"I would say solidify the starting rotation," he said before Monday's series opener against Miami. "I think that could be No. 1. Like I said, I think some of the question marks in the bullpen could have been answered, so that might have narrowed that down. We need to figure out the catching situation and better defense in the outfield, and continue to try to improve the lineup as far as the offense goes.
"I think with some of the youth, and young guys that have created some spark and have shown some athleticism and speed, I think that has shown the last three or four weeks. I think that's a good thing and I think that was needed. So there's a real good chance those guys are here. And then getting everybody back and being healthy."
Relief pitchers like B.J. Rosenberg, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus have made cases for themselves in the past several weeks, although it seems likely the Phillies will try to sign a free agent reliever or two to make the bullpen more stable.
"In some ways, maybe there are less question marks than a month and a half, two months ago with some positions on the team," Sandberg said. "Maybe primarily in the bullpen, and that's all good. Some guys have come a long way. Maybe some guys have earned some jobs next year going into Spring Training. That's all good. It really gives the organization a better feel and what they really need to concentrate on -- as far as the front office -- as far as the necessary pieces that either aren't here or that they need to go and get."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.