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Seeking return to form in '13, Phils fell well short

Injuries to key players, down years by others led to Manuel's dismissal

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies opened Spring Training in February with one hope:

If everybody stayed healthy and everybody produced like they had in the past, they could return to form in the National League East.

They had reasons that they felt that way. The Phillies finished 36-24 (.600) following the July 2012 Trade Deadline, which coincided with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley returning to action and an inexperienced bullpen showing promise the final two months of the season. The Phillies believed a healthy Howard, Utley and Roy Halladay in 2013, plus an improved bullpen, would return them to the level that made them five-time National League East champions from 2007-11.

But that hope fell far short of the 2013 postseason. The Phillies suffered multiple injuries and even when players were healthy enough to play, many of them didn't meet expectations. They finished 73-89 for their first losing season since 2002 and their most losses in a season since 2000.

Spring Training 2014 is only seven weeks away, but before everybody looks forward, here is one final look back at the top Phillies storylines from 2013:

5. Injuries continue

The Phils could not stay healthy. Players on the disabled list in 2013 included Halladay, Howard, Utley, Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, Mike Adams, Carlos Ruiz, Kyle Kendrick, Delmon Young, John Lannan, Jonathan Pettibone, Michael Stutes, Jeremy Horst, Erik Kratz, Joe Savery and Casper Wells.

The Phillies were 49-48 on July 19, 6 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East and 5 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second NL Wild Card spot. Injuries eventually overcame them -- it was around that time the Phils lost both Howard and Revere -- and went just 24-41 the rest of the way, the second-worst record in the league.

4. Offense lacks pop

Before general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acquired pitchers like Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt in recent years, offense had been this team's calling card. But the Phillies could not get going offensively. They finished 12th in the National League with a .306 on-base percentage, 11th with a .384 slugging percentage and 12th with a .690 OPS. Not coincidentally, the Phils ranked 13th in the league in scoring with just 610 runs.

Philadelphia had not scored so few runs in a non-strike shortened season since 1988, when it scored just 597.

Injuries to Howard, Revere and Utley certainly hurt. But Rollins never spent a day on the DL, yet suffered the worst season of his career. Ruiz, who also spent time on the DL, endured his worst season since 2008. And additions Michael Young and Delmon Young didn't work. Phillies scouts believed the Youngs could be middle-of-the-order bats, but they never proved capable. Both were gone before the end of the season.

Brown enjoyed a breakout season, making the NL All-Star team for the first time, but he slowed late in the season because of injuries.

Not much went right at the plate.

3. Pitching no longer a strength

Remember when the Phillies held a news conference in Spring Training 2011 to introduce Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton? Those were exciting times, when opposing teams prayed they might miss one of the four aces in a three-game series. But the Phillies rotation didn't intimidate teams in 2013. Hamels and Lee both pitched well, but Halladay, Lannan and Kendrick each spent time on the DL, which forced Tyler Cloyd, Zach Miner and Raul Valdes to make a combined 23 starts.

The bullpen also struggled. Closer Jonathan Papelbon suffered seven blown saves for an 80.6 save percentage, which was 29th of 32 qualifying closers. Adams was supposed to be a big pickup as a setup man, but he missed much of the season because of a shoulder injury. And left-hander Antonio Bastardo received a 50-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance.

2. Halladay's final season

Arguably the best pitcher in baseball from 2001-11, Halladay pitched his final season in a Phillies uniform, announcing his retirement this month at the Winter Meetings.

It was not the way Halladay wanted to leave. He came to Philadelphia in December 2009 because he wanted to win a World Series. The Phillies made the postseason in 2010-11, but the team could not get Halladay the ring he desired.

Halladay's final season proved a frustrating one. He won the 200th game of his career in April, but he had right shoulder surgery in May. He rehabbed intensely because he believed he owed it to the organization and fan base to return to the mound. He came back in August and made six starts. He went 2-1 with a 4.55 ERA in those starts, but while he was a shadow of his former self, those who knew him and the extent of his shoulder and back injuries were impressed his came back at all.

Halladay might not have been the Halladay of old in 2013, but he outworked everybody to give everything he could when he stood on the mound.

1. Manuel out, Sandberg in

Just two men can say they managed the Phillies when they won the World Series: Dallas Green and Charlie Manuel.

The Phillies dismissed Manuel in August, replacing him with third-base coach Ryne Sandberg. Manuel left as the winningest manager in franchise history. He won five division titles, two NL pennants and one World Series in arguably the greatest run in franchise history. He heard plenty of criticism early in his nine-year tenure, but winning has a funny way of changing things. When the Phillies announced his dismissal, he received a nice sendoff from fans everywhere.

Sandberg is now charged with the task of turning around a team that has played worse each of the previous two seasons. Players seemed to respond to a more structured atmosphere in Sandberg's clubhouse, although a manager can only do so much. He will need his players to perform in 2014 to turn things around.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for

Philadelphia Phillies, Domonic Brown, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley