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Gillick says Phillies are in for challenging '15

Club's interim president sees progress with young prospects @ToddZolecki

READING, Pa. -- Pat Gillick offered fans some much-needed candor in the fall when he said the Phillies would not contend again until 2017 or '18.

Gillick has not shortened his timetable.

READING, Pa. -- Pat Gillick offered fans some much-needed candor in the fall when he said the Phillies would not contend again until 2017 or '18.

Gillick has not shortened his timetable.

"Yeah, maybe further out," Gillick said on Tuesday night before the Phillies' winter banquet at the Reading Crowne Plaza Hotel. "Maybe '18. You need about two or three years."

But whenever the organization's massive rebuild is complete, Gillick will not be in his current position as interim president. Gillick, 77, said he has no interest in the job on a permanent basis, and while he could not say how much longer he would have the job, he said he did not expect to have it a year from now.

"I would not have taken this responsibility if it wasn't a challenge for me," Gillick said. "But there comes a point in your life when you need to get out of the way and let somebody else do it. That's what it's all about. Let some younger people get an opportunity. But as long as I'm in this position, I'm certainly going to put my two cents' worth in and we're going to try to do things the right way. I view this as a big challenge. I feel like I'm up to it, but I think over a long period of time, you need somebody that is going to be around for a while."

Nobody can say if David Montgomery will return to his role as president. He took a leave of absence in August to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery. Montgomery said in November that his health has improved, but he said his return to the organization is not "entirely my call."

"I could not handicap it one way or the other," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said, when asked if he is under the belief Montgomery will return. "I think his health is much improved. I think he's doing very, very well. Really, that's not my decision. That's somebody else's decision. I'm hopeful that he's back. I love him like a second father."

In the meantime, Gillick and Amaro have worked hand-in-hand to rebuild a franchise that finished in last place in the National League East in 2014, despite a franchise-record $180 million payroll. The Phils already have traded Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo, but they continue to take and make calls for veterans Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon.

Video: McCarthy talks about the trade market for Cole Hamels

Hamels remains the most intriguing name, because he theoretically should net the greatest haul, but the Phillies expect to have him in camp when Spring Training opens next month.

Of course, one phone call from an anxious GM could change that.

"If somebody is interested in a top-of-the-line pitcher, I think he'd be somebody you'd have to consider," said Gillick, when asked how Max Scherzer signing with the Nationals and Yovani Gallardo being dealt to the Rangers affects Hamels' status. "It's funny. In this game, things change. People are not in the mood to do something, then they go to Spring Training and all of a sudden ... they realize they want to be competitive and want to do something. A lot of this maybe will shake out in Spring Training. I'd look for probably more interest in a lot of our players come Spring Training."

"There is still a lot more to do and we can't stop," Amaro said. "We continue to have dialogue with other clubs about making more change. I don't know if anything is going to happen. Nothing is really imminent."

But Gillick said he sees progress. The Phils received four Minor League pitchers in the three trades they made. They also selected a couple of players in the Rule 5 Draft -- left-hander Andy Oliver and outfielder Odubel Herrera -- both of whom have a chance to make the team.

"They're prospects, but I think [Aaron] Nola and J.P. Crawford, [Roman] Quinn and [Maikel] Franco ... I think they're all guys that are possibilities," Gillick said. "As we all know, they're prospects. If you hit 10-for-10, you're a genius. If you hit 4- or 5-for-10, you're still in pretty good shape. What I'm saying is, you can't expect all 10 to come through."

What Gillick is saying is it is going to take a few years before this thing turns around. He just hopes to jump-start the process before somebody else assumes control of the organization.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for

Philadelphia Phillies