Sandberg: Small ball to be important for Phillies

Manager wants club to focus on making contact, manufacturing runs

Sandberg: Small ball to be important for Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- When reserve outfielder Xavier Paul homered to lead off the seventh inning Friday, it wasn't just the only run the Phillies got in a 4-1 Grapefruit League loss to a Yankees split squad. It was the only home run the Phillies have hit in four games this spring.

And while that's a small sample, manager Ryne Sandberg knows it could be a harbinger of what's to come. Last season the Phillies hit 125 home runs, the lowest total for the team since 1997. They also traded two of their top three power threats from last year, Marlon Byrd (25 home runs) and Jimmy Rollins (17).

The projected starting outfield of Domonic Brown (10 home runs), Ben Revere (two) and Grady Sizemore (five) or Darin Ruf (three) combined for 20 home runs last season.

"I look at our club and we're going to have to be able to do some little things," Sandberg said. "We're going to have to be able to move runners, make contact, hit and run, bunt. Maybe bunt early in the game, that type of thing. Definitely not to wait for the home run. To manufacture runs, especially early, to get a lead for the starting pitchers. That will be important for us."

Of course, it's also possible that power could come from an unexpected source.

"Darin Ruf could be a surprise guy for me," Sandberg said. "[Third baseman] Cody Asche and Sizemore might be guys who can chip in. Who knows how many home runs they can hit? If we're just thinking about solid contact and more contact and cutting down strikeouts from the type of team we had last year, I think that will go a long way with us. Driving balls into the gaps and some of those doubles turning into home runs."

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