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To core Phillies, Manuel 'like a father'

From Utley to Hamels, some of club's longest-tenured stars express regret

PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley arrived at Citizens Bank Park a bit early on Friday, went in the manager's office and had a conversation with Charlie Manuel.

Utley said such a talk is something he has done routinely during his decade-long Major League career, but Friday's chat was far from normal. Utley and Manuel had to discuss the fact the manager and the Phillies were parting ways after more than eight seasons, five division titles and one World Series championship -- all of which involved Utley.

"I owe a lot to Charlie Manuel," Utley said on Friday afternoon. "He not only brought the best out of myself, but he brought the best out of a lot of players who have come through this organization.

"I think we're all a little upset, a little sad. It's not easy to see the guy you play for, for nine years, not behind the batting cage right now watching batting practice. It's difficult. I talked to him a little bit prior to his press conference. He said, 'The game goes on.' That doesn't make it easier, but that's a fact."

The Phillies have a core group of veteran players who have been vital to the club's success under Manuel's tutelage. Ultey is one of those players, as is left-hander Cole Hamels, who said many players grew up when they were around Manuel.

"We leave home, we come from all different cities, and I think Charlie was kind of like a father to a lot of us," Hamels said. "He was -- he was that fatherly figure. He really enjoyed watching us have success."

Another one of those players is Jimmy Rollins. The shortstop was a regular in Manuel's lineup for his entire Phillies tenure, and like Utley, Rollins said he got to speak with his now-former manager Friday afternoon.

"I was in there talking, laughing, same old thing," Rollins said. "Guess I have a fishing buddy now when I get down to Florida."

After the Phillies' 4-0 loss to the Dodgers on Friday, Rollins said he had not yet had a chance to sit down and think about all of his time with Manuel, but the veteran could pick out his best trait.

"He managed personalities, and that was probably his No. 1 gift, as far as being able to go to each individual person and relate to him," Rollins said. "You hear his country accent and think he's a little bit slow, but he's sharp as a tack."

The 69-year-old Manuel has the most victories (780) of any Phillies manager, and he earned the 1,000th win of his career on Monday in Atlanta. Despite all of his accomplishments, the Phillies entered Friday night's game against the Dodgers with a 5-19 record since the All-Star break, including a 1-13 stretch that was the worst of Manuel's career.

Utley said there is a sense in the Phillies' clubhouse that the players let their manager down with poor play.

"Charlie didn't strike out; Charlie didn't make an error," Utley said. "All Charlie did was come to the park every day with an attitude to win. We didn't uphold our end of the bargain."

Ryne Sandberg officially took over for Manuel in an interim role on Friday. Sandberg spent this season as the team's third-base coach and was the manager for the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate at Lehigh Valley in 2012.

In his first chance to address the media as the Phillies' manager, Sandberg, a Hall of Famer, used the word "lackadaisical" when describing the Phillies' play lately. In four weeks, the club has gone from one game above .500 to sitting in fourth place, far removed from the playoff picture, and Hamels agreed with his new manager.

"I'm as guilty as everybody else is," Hamels said. "We really have to focus a lot more on what we have to do out on the field, because we have to do it the right way. Charlie preached that, but we weren't doing it."

Hamels added that he thinks Sandberg's pedigree as a player can translate to success as a manager.

"He's going to come here and find out how the pieces work, what makes us tick and then try to make those moves accordingly," Hamels said. "I have a lot of confidence in him. He was a tremendous player, and through meeting him this year, he's a tremendous coach."

While Sandberg got to put on a Phillies uniform and fill out Friday's lineup card, Manuel wore a button-down shirt to his farewell news conference, then exited the stadium well before game time.

Manuel's departure sent ripples across the baseball world.

Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, who spent four seasons playing for Manuel in Philadelphia, said, "This is a sad day. Charlie Manuel is a good man. He deserves better."

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez -- now the longest-tenured manager in the National League East -- said he has a lot of respect for Manuel and how he handled the Phillies. Meanwhile, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said the news of Manuel's departure came as a surprise.

"I think the world of him," Leyland said. "He's obviously done a great job over there. And it's just one of those things. That's just part of our business. It's too bad, but it's something that happens."

Back in Philadelphia, Utley said he will get to have more of those familiar exchanges with Manuel as time passes.

They just won't be in the Phillies manager's office.

"Everything comes to an end," Utley said. "It's not the ideal way you want to picture it. I talked to Charlie. Charlie will be OK. Charlie will find something to do, whether that's in baseball or not. He's someone I'll always have in my cellphone. I'll continue to talk to him. I'm disappointed. I just hope this works out for the best."

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for
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