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Sandberg eyes '15 as transition year for Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies are rebuilding in 2015. The front office has made that clear, but the manager must manage, the players must play and they want to win more than they lose, if possible. Manager Ryne Sandberg believes there is a chance. He believes the blend of eager young players and veterans can surprise some people.

"I don't look at 'rebuild,'" Sandberg said Wednesday morning at Bright House Field, where the Phils' pitchers and catchers will hold their first official workout Thursday. "I look at, well, it's transition. It's where we're at. I'm excited to see some young players. I think young players are needed in the game, mixed in there. I'm anxious to see some of the guys … continue to be Philadelphia Phillies and move forward as core players. So I don't think rebuild is a mentality that I have. I think younger players have a chance of adjusting to new things and making that the new norm for Phillies baseball, and I'm looking forward to that."

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Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon will be on the field Thursday. (Everybody is expected to be in camp on time.) It is no secret the Phillies want to get younger, and trading their three highly-paid veteran pitchers would speed up that process. But for now, they remain Phils.

"That's part of the business and I believe that they realize that," Sandberg said.

But it could create a strange and possibly uncomfortable dynamic in camp. There are the veterans who expect to be traded or want to be traded. Then there are the younger players who hope to establish themselves in the big leagues and be part of the organization's future.

Sandberg said he doesn't expect those worlds to collide in the clubhouse.

"Not with the conversations they've shared, not only with myself, but with [general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] and with some of the coaches," Sandberg said. "All the guys are anxious to see a different blend of players, to be part of the process with the younger players."

Sandberg has said the clubhouse was not a good place last season. He said it was not conducive to a winning atmosphere.

Sandberg partially blamed himself for that because he did not communicate well with his players, and he promises a change.

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"That will be a group effort," Sandberg said of the change. "I'm looking forward to that part of it and applying that. It's getting veteran players involved in that and giving responsibility out to the coaching staff, to certain players. And with some of the players coming back, we've had a great minicamp out here the last two weeks with about 35 guys here, and it's gone terrific. They've gone about it the right way."

Some believe the Phillies could win fewer games than any team in baseball in 2015. The Phils lost two of their biggest bats this offseason when they traded Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers and Marlon Byrd to the Reds.

It could be a huge challenge to score runs consistently. But on the eve of the team's first workout, Sandberg is trying to be optimistic.

"We have a chance to surprise some people," Sandberg said. "When I look at how the game starts with starting pitching and the guys that we have right now and our bullpen and the way that our season went last year, a lot of games were tight through six innings. We can be a surprise type of a team. The other thing we can do is try to improve every day with our players and develop some younger players. You never know in baseball. You get the right guys together on the same page, you just never know."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for
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