Asked to assess the Phillies’ position, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. responded in typically blunt fashion.
“We’re in a great spot,” Amaro said Thursday. “We’ve played terrible. And we’re 3 1/2 games out.”
Amaro has a point, as far as the NL East standings are concerned.
The first-place Braves are 10-17 since opening the season 12-1, while the second-place Nationals are 14-17 since their 7-2 start.
On the other hand, the Phillies (19-22) are starting to show encouraging signs, winning three of their last four against two strong clubs, the Diamondbacks and Indians.
A significant test looms this weekend when the Phillies host the Reds (Saturday, MLB on Fox, 4:05 p.m. ET). After that, the Phils begin an eight-game road trip to Miami, Washington and Boston.
Amaro said that changes in the team’s struggling middle-relief corps are possible over the next few weeks, with the Phillies currently weighing their options in the minor leagues.
He also said that two of the team’s biggest stars — left-hander Cole Hamels and first baseman Ryan Howard — are trying too hard to justify their massive contracts.
Hamels, in the first year of a six-year, $144 million extension, is 1-6 with a 4.61 ERA. Howard, in the second year of a five-year, $125 million deal, is batting .245 with a .713 OPS, six homers and 22 RBI.
“Cole’s stuff has been good, but he’s pitching with the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Amaro said. “He needs to relax. And it’s the same with Ryan Howard.
“They’re getting all that money and they’re trying to be something they’re not. They just need to relax and play.”
— Ken Rosenthal