Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. addressed a number of topics surrounding his team in a conversation with FOXSports.com this week.
* Amaro said he remains open to upgrading the pitching staff, if he can add rotation depth or a left-handed reliever at reasonable costs. The Phillies also would like to add more speed to their bench.
* Amaro said it will be “great” if first baseman Ryan Howard is able to return to the team in May after undergoing surgery for a ruptured left Achilles. Amaro said Howard was recently cleared to resume strength-building exercises and some weight-bearing activities. “We’re still being very cautious with him,” Amaro said.
In the meantime, Amaro is content with the internal options to fill in for Howard: John Mayberry Jr., Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix, and Jim Thome. “We’re covered,” Amaro said.
* Amaro is very satisfied with reports on Thome, as he prepares to play in the field on a limited basis. Thome, 41, has played just four games at first base since 2005 – and none since 2007. “Our medical people are surprised at the shape he’s in,” Amaro said. “They think he might be better now than he was when we first signed him in 2002.” Amaro said it’s conceivable that Thome could play first base as often as four or five times per month.
* Based on what former Philadelphia closer Ryan Madson received from the Reds ($8.5 million over one year), is there any second-guessing about whether the Phillies overpaid for Jonathan Papelbon at four years and $50 million?
“That’s the beauty and difficulty of free agency,” Amaro said. “We knew there were other teams who were going to be very competitive in the market for closers. Once we got to an AAV (average annual value) of $12.5 million with Papelbon, we felt that was a reasonable deal for us to make.
“We don’t necessarily like deals of that length. There is risk. But he has a good track record, when you look at what he’s done and the physical condition he’s in. He’s going to pitch this year at 31. In the end, we got the best guy for our situation.
“When we came into the off-season, we identified closer as our most specific need – and that’s no disrespect to Jimmy (Rollins). We wanted a lockdown type of guy, and there aren’t all that many closers with that sort of track record. We’re trying to win more than one World Series. We wanted to find the best player we could for that role. The risk, if you wait too long, is that you don’t end up with that guy.
“Markets can be fluid and difficult to gauge. I’m happy with the player we have.”
-- Jon Paul Morosi