Sitting in “Whale Beach,” an outdoor section of stands at Bright House Field reserved for media and VIPs, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., talks to Philadelphia magazine about the Jimmy Rollins controversy, Freddy Galvis’s health scare, and whether he is feeling the heat going into his sixth year at the helm after two straight seasons without reaching the playoffs.
Ruben Amaro Jr.: No. Every year is a challenge. We always have to deal with DLs and issues that pop up. Like (former GM) Dallas Green told me from the very beginning, we are firemen. We have to try and put out fires and this is just another set of them, and we have to deal and go from there.
Philadelphia magazine: How is Galvis (who contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus after suffering a scrape on his left knee)?
Ruben Amaro Jr.: Galvis is doing just fine. We were concerned about the severity of the infection. I don’t know how long it is going to take him to be ready but I’m more concerned about his overall health and so far he’s doing a lot better.
Philadelphia magazine: He’s still hospitalized?
Ruben Amaro Jr.: He’s still in the hospital. [After the Phillies beat the Twins 5-1 at Bright House Field, Amaro said during the post-game press conference that Galvis, who has been taken off IV medications, could be released from the hospital as soon as Monday].
Philadelphia magazine: Talk about Rollins. First of all, he can’t be traded if he doesn’t want to be, and he doesn’t want to be. Besides, who else is out there?
Ruben Amaro Jr.: There really isn’t any issue about Jimmy Rollins. People like to make mountains out of molehills and the fact of the matter is Jimmy isn’t going anywhere. He’s our shortstop and we need to win with him.
Philadelphia magazine: Is it fair to say that he sets the tone and you have to have Jimmy Rollins having a good year for the Phillies to have a good year?
Ruben Amaro Jr.: I think all of our veteran guys … we talk about [second baseman] Chase Utley, Jimmy, [catcher Carlos] Chooch [Ruiz], [first baseman] Ryan Howard, our starters. Those guys have to produce for us for us to have success. They are paid to do it. We paid them handsomely to do it, and hopefully, they will.
Philadelphia magazine: Talk about the new acquisitions. There’s lot of talk about them being senior guys, but they were both in a winning clubhouse last year.
Ruben Amaro Jr.: [Right-handed starter] A.J. Burnett and [outfielder] Marlon [Byrd] have been on winning teams. They had success on winning clubs. Bringing back Chooch was important in that regard, so all three of those guys were important acquisitions because they know how to win and they’ve been on winning teams. I mean, A.J. played on a team [the New York Yankees] that won the World Series in’09 against us. So these are guys who have been through the wars and hopefully they will help us win. That’s the whole purpose of bringing players in, is to get guys who know how to win. And can get us there.
Philadelphia magazine: What about the talk that these guys are too old? Someone this morning tweeted a fake Phillies’ logo with the words “Jurassic Park.”
Ruben Amaro Jr.: I haven’t seen that one. [Long pause]. Um, listen, it’s their job to be good, whether they’re old or they’re young. They have to be good, and that’s the important part. We’re expecting them to be good. And as long as they can stay on the field, they will be and they’ll produce
Philadelphia magazine: I read that you are looking for another starter, any truth to that?
Ruben Amaro Jr.: No … with the way [righty David] Buchanan has thrown and some other guys have thrown, the progress that [righty Jonathan] Pettibone and the progress of [injured lefty] Cole [Hamels], we are pretty comfortable where we are right now. Obviously we can never have enough pitching — some guy could break today and that could cause more problems for us, but right now, that’s not a major priority for us.
Philadelphia magazine: What’s the brightest spot so far?
Ruben Amaro Jr.: We’ve had several guys step up as far as the young guys are concerned. I’ve liked our pitching overall. We’ve done a very nice job hitting on some of the areas that were a concern of ours last year. We are doing better on base running. We are doing better on defense — overall our defense has been outstanding. We’ve only made like two errors in the last 15 games. We are holding runners better. We are doing some of the fundamental things that were a priority for us, and [manager Ryne] Ryno [Sandberg] kind of took to heart and the players took to heart, we are handling those things well. As far as players are concerned, guys like Buchanan and [left-handed pitcher] Mario Hollands and [right-handed pitcher Jeff] Manship, and some other guys who have stepped up and done a nice job, [outfielder Ben] Revere’s had a good spring, [outfielder Marlon] Byrd’s had a good spring and Chooch has had a good spring. There’s some bright spots out there and now it’s our job to try and constitute the club as well as we can on the bench and in the bullpen so we can win baseball games.
Philadelphia magazine: Are you worried about guys not having a good spring?
Ruben Amaro Jr.: I’m not as concerned about the veteran guys. I’m a little concerned about Brownie [outfielder Domonic Brown] getting some more reps, because he was sick. He was out four or five days. So he is going to get a chance to play a lot. So he is going to get into a rhythm. He hasn’t gotten into a rhythm, particularly early in the spring. I think he is going to hit, I am not worried about that, but I am damned worried about making sure he gets enough reps to get ready for the season. As far as Howard is concerned, yeah, he is a concern because he’s an important part of our club, but I know if he’s on the field then he’ll produce for us,
Philadelphia magazine: Do you feel any extra pressure going into this season? The Phillies’ fans are disquieted to say the least.
Ruben Amaro Jr.: Listen, the fans can’t put any more pressure on me than I put on myself. I think the people of this organization know how much we care as an organization. It’s important to us to produce and to win and I always put pressure on myself to produce and to have success and we have to hope the guys go out there and play the way they can. If they can, then we’ll be contenders. If they don’t and we don’t get what we need out of them, then it will be rough for us.
Former City Paper editor and Pretzel Logic columnist Howard Altman covers national defense for The Tampa Tribune. He’s been covering spring training for Philadelphia magazine. Read his interviews with Mike Schmidt about his recovery from cancer and Carlos Ruiz about age vs. experience.