Wagner: "He's got our back"

Charlie Manuel has been portrayed as a down-home sort of manager. In his first meeting with his full team, he stressed a laid back approach and having fun, but he also let his players know that he's in charge. The approach struck a major chord with several players who feel that their new boss has their back.

Billy Wagner was the brunt of a clubhouse laugh as Charlie Manuel addressed his troops. Manuel, insisted that he didn't want Wagner throwing his trademark fastball 100 m.p.h. "I want you throwing 200 miles per hour," joked the new manager of the Phillies.

It was a marked - and welcomed - new approach.

Players who talked about the meeting were struck by the fact that Manuel stressed having fun. "It was very cool," reported Randy Wolf. "It was different. Better," said Mike Lieberthal. Words like "loose", "fun" and "relax" were thrown around like those trademark fastballs from Wagner.

In between though, Manuel left no doubt that this isn't Little League and that he expects "maximum effort" from each and every player on the roster. Players have no doubt that Manuel will come down on them hard for one thing; lacking effort. "He wants us to play and have fun and enjoy the game, but we know who's in charge," said Wagner. "He's got our back. If something doesn't go right, he's not going to stab us in the back. He's going to be there for us."

Veteran players have stressed how much more relaxed and fun this year's camp is compared to the past few seasons when Larry Bowa ran a tighter camp. Players like Lieberthal and Pat Burrell, who were uneasy in camp, have been notably more upbeat and excited about getting ready for the season.

Notes from Clearwater:

  • David Bell missed the first full-squad workout and also skipped Monday's optional workout because of back spasms. "I'm concerned when David has problems with his back," Manuel told the Philadelphia Daily News. It's expected that Bell will miss a couple more days of workouts, but team doctor, Dr. Michael Ciccotti doesn't think Bell will be bothered by anything other than muscle spasms and that his back should be okay.
  • Rheal Cormier missed practice Tuesday because of the flu. Cormier is staying away from the club so he doesn't spread the flu to other players.
  • Jimmy Rollins will be away from camp to film a public service for Major League Baseball.
  • The Phillies will play intra-squad games Sunday and Monday. Their first official spring game is next Thursday against the Detroit Tigers.

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