'Message clear' to Phillies after latest loss

'Message clear' to Phillies after latest loss

'Message clear' to Phillies after latest loss
PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins hopped up on the red countertop in the middle of the Phillies' clubhouse and surveyed the reporters in front of him.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had called a team meeting immediately following a 10-6 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, blistering his players for their mediocre and uninspired play through the season's first 32 games, but Rollins wanted everybody to know they were more than OK with Manuel's fiery talk.

They agreed with everything he said.

"You don't have to whisper," Rollins said. "It's not the end of the world."

Hunter Pence offered similar words a few feet away.

"Don't give me the sad face," he said. "There's no self-pity here."

But there has been plenty of bad baseball from the five-time defending National League East champions, who are 14-18. The Phillies have not been four games below .500 this late in the season since May 9, 2007. They are last in the division with the fifth-worst record in the league because of an inconsistent offense, a sloppy defense and the worst bullpen in baseball.

Manuel, who said Tuesday he had no idea what to tell his team, reached his tipping point after the Phillies blew another late lead against the Mets, who swept them in the three-game series. The Phillies blew a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning in Monday's 5-2 loss, a 4-1 lead in the seventh inning in Tuesday's 7-4 loss and a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning Wednesday.

"We have to wake up and play better," Manuel said. "We don't like what we've been doing. If we want to win and be able to go where we want to go, we better start playing better. We have to hit better, we have to catch the ball better and we have to pitch better. All three phases of the game. I think we need to get back to playing the game the way it needs to play, if we can."

If we can?

Does this team have enough talent to win?

"I think we have enough guys in there who I know can play, that we should be pretty good," he said.

Cliff Lee rejoined the rotation Wednesday, hoping to bring stability to the pitching staff by eating up innings and putting less stress on a beleaguered bullpen. But because it was Lee's first time on the mound since throwing 10 scoreless innings and straining his left oblique in a 1-0 loss in San Francisco on April 18, he was on a pitch count. He was finished when he got through the sixth inning on 84 pitches.

The Phillies had to entrust that 4-2 lead to the bullpen, which now has a 7.92 ERA in 17 appearances since April 20.

Right-hander Kyle Kendrick allowed five runs in one-plus inning of work, Jose Contreras allowed two runs and Brian Sanches allowed one run to turn the game into a laugher. The eighth inning included Pence dropping a routine pop fly, drawing his first boos (and moments later sarcastic applause when he caught a ball hit his way) in a Phillies uniform.

"It's awful," Pence said. "I'm trying too hard, thinking too much, pressing. There's no excuse for it. It's awful. It's unacceptable. I understand everyone's frustration. It's not acceptable to play the way we're playing and the way I'm playing. We've all got to look ourselves in the mirror. We've all got to figure something out."

Rollins, Pence, Lee and Kendrick each spoke following the game. They said the same thing:

We deserved this.

"I feel like we were due for something like that," Lee said. "Something needs to change. We need someone to shake it up and get us back on track to being the team we know we can be. ... I think there needs to be urgency. I think there needs to be more urgency than what there is. We've struggled in just about every aspect of the game. I felt that it needs to be articulated. Call it pressure. Call it whatever. We've got to turn it around."

It is not a stretch to think the players have expected good things to happen to them because good things have happened to them in the past.

Call it complacency.

"They used that word a couple of years ago," Rollins said. "After we won, we became complacent. But we found a way to win. So if complacency leads to finding a way to win, that's a good thing. But I definitely never use that word when talking about pro athletes."

But Rollins said Manuel's message was received.

"It's the first one this year," Rollins said. "It seems like every year we have a meeting, if not a second one. But we don't plan to have any more. That's a good thing. ... Anytime your manager talks, you listen. His message was definitely clear. If we go out there and execute and play ball the way we're supposed to, things will start working out."

The Phillies have time to turn things around, which is why Rollins said he has never thought that maybe this is not their year.

"It's too early for that," he said. "It happened before in 2007 and it ended up being a very good year for us and put us where we are now. You get 100 games into it, and you find yourself way back, well under .500, then you say, 'This isn't the year.' But until then ... I don't know how many games we're back, we've made up more."

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