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Busy off-season encourages Phils

    The team did everything it could in the off-season to make staying attractive to ace pitcher Curt Schilling. But was it enough?

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 1999


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Ace Curt Schilling wouldn’t be surprised by a trade.
[Photo: AP]
CLEARWATER -- Curt Schilling liked what he heard from the Philadelphia brass in the off-season. The Phillies added depth to the pitching staff by acquiring Paul Spoljaric, Cliff Politte and Jeff Brantley. They also brought power to their lineup by adding Ron Gant.

“This is a better club,” Schilling said. “Even with the question marks, we’re off to a better start. The team is doing everything they can to put out a winner. They’re putting the best possible team out there that they can spend.”

The team went into the off-season with a clear mandate: Do everything to protect Schilling, the 32-year-old who is the last link to the Phillies’ watershed years of the early ’90s, when they reached the World Series.

But Schilling didn’t enter spring training with the just-happy-to-be-here sentiment shared by others. On the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers, Schilling said he wouldn’t mind listening to what other teams had to say.

“I’d be surprised if I played out the season here,” Schilling said. “The team wants to win now, but we’re building. For the right package, why wouldn’t they move me? There are some teams out there that I’d be looking at.”

But general manager Ed Wade hasn’t exactly been courting replacements.

“Curt’s our Opening Day starter,” Wade said. “Our intention is to build around him and to be as competitive as we can be. I haven’t had a discussion with anybody since the winter. I can’t predict what the future holds, but we want him to be around. Guys will develop more quickly with him leading the way.”

Whether or not he stays, the Phillies are intent on going places. In fact, they have a couple of destinations in mind: their first .500 record since 1993 and a longer stay in contention for the pennant.

“When I talked to Curt, he was great,” Phillies manager Terry Francona said. “He really wants to win. Hopefully, he’ll be here.”

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Infielder Scott Rolen is expected to stick around to help the Phillies improve.
[Photo: AP]
To win, the Phillies will rely on a solid infield and speedy outfield.

The corners are well-manned with third baseman Scott Rolen and first baseman Rico Brogna. Rolen is the first Phillies Gold Glove winner since Mike Schmidt in 1986, and Brogna is miffed he hasn’t won one yet. Both are also run-producers (Rolen 110 RBI, Brogna 104).

The middle of the infield is filled with young, slick athletes. Desi Relaford, a shortstop, came over in a trade last season and hit .235. Marlon Anderson had great numbers at Class AAA (.306, 32 doubles, 14 triples, 16 HRs, 86 RBI) and takes over at second base for departed Mark Lewis.

Outfielders Bob Abreu and Doug Glanville each had more than 150 hits, and they combined for 42 stolen bases. Gant hit 26 HRs for the Cardinals last season.

Then there’s the pitching staff. Schilling won 15 games last season. After that, the dropoff was significant. The rest of the projected starters won a combined 16 games.

 

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