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Gillick expresses faith in organization's future

Interim president sticking to status quo with GM Amaro, manager Sandberg @ToddZolecki

ATLANTA -- Pat Gillick never left the Phillies, but he is back on a full-time basis after ownership asked him last week to be the organization's interim president while David Montgomery takes a medical leave of absence.

Gillick has plenty of work to do, and he said he plans to continue that work with Ruben Amaro Jr. as general manager and Ryne Sandberg as manager.

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"Right," Gillick said Tuesday afternoon at Turner Field. "Absolutly. Absolutely. They're under contract. Ruben is under contract through '15 and Ryne's under contract. So right now, there's no thought whatsoever of replacing either one."

Gillick, 77, joined the Phillies on Tuesday, and he said he plans to remain with the team through the end of the season.

"I just want to kind of get up to speed a little bit," Gillick said. "Just put my eyes on the group here for a couple weeks."

Gillick had served as senior advisor to Montgomery and Amaro since he retired as general manager in 2008, when the Phillies won the World Series. He said he spoke to Amaro about three times a week in his advisor role.

Gillick will be in charge indefinitely, although he sounded hopeful that Montgomery, who is recovering from jaw bone cancer surgery, could be back as early as the end of the season. If not, Gillick will spend his offseason in Philadelphia -- and longer, if needed -- trying to improve a team with the third-highest payroll in baseball, but one of the worst records in the game.

"It's hard to sit in for him," Gillick said about Montgomery. "He's everything about baseball in Philly. He's everything about our family. ... This is a good group of people. I've been with them now for over eight years. So I mean, David is not only my boss, but a great guy to work for, a great person, somebody I admire. So consequently, any way I can be of any help to the Phillies, there is no hesitancy on my part whatsoever."

Gillick said he will be focused on baseball operations, while Phillies senior vice president of administration and operations Mike Stiles runs the business side. Gillick certainly faces considerable challenges on the baseball side. It is a roster full of high-priced, aging players who have made changing the roster problematic. The Minor League system also has struggled to replenish the big league roster with years of Drafts that have produced its share of big league talents, but few of an impactful nature.

Gillick expects to work closely with Amaro for the foreseeable future.

"Ruben and I mutually agree on most decisions that we make," Gillick said. "Ruben is very inclusive on any decisions that we make for the ballclub. But right now, if there's something I might have a different opinion, I'll certainly voice that opinion and we'll talk it through and try to make what we think is the correct decision."

Amaro has been on the proverbial hot seat for some time, as the Phillies have fallen from a five-time National League East champion that won a franchise-record 102 games in 2011 to a team headed toward a third consecutive season without a winning record. Gillick explained his faith in Amaro, whom he mentored as general manager from '05-08.

"One of the more difficult things to do in professional sports -- and not only baseball, but all sports -- is to be patient," Gillick said. "It's very difficult. It's very difficult for the fans to be patient. It's difficult for the media to be patient. It's difficult for ownership to be patient.

"These are basically the same people that made the decisions when we won five division championships from 2007 through '11. These are the same people making the decisions. So all of a sudden, Ryne wasn't here, but Ruben was here. All of a sudden, he didn't get dumb overnight. It's just right now, we're in a situation where we know where we're headed, and it's going to take some time to get us where we want to go."

But does Gillick have the final say? Montgomery had final say because he was a general partner and represented ownership. Amaro, like every general manager working with a president or owner, had to run things past Montgomery before he moved forward on major deals.

"I would say if it comes down to the end, I have part of the final say," Gillick said. "At this moment, I think ownership has a part of the say, too."

So is Gillick a mere caretaker while Montgomery is away, or could he affect change?

"A little bit of both," Gillick said. "As I've said over and over, we want David back as soon as possible. So [to] that point, I'm an interim caretaker. But at the same time, if there are decisions that have to be made from a baseball standpoint, we're going to make those decisions."

It will be a challenge to improve the team, but he said he does not view it as a complete rebuilding effort because he does not see a lot of dominant teams in the NL.

"We have to get younger; we have to get younger players into the lineup," Gillick said. "But at the same time, a tweak here or a tweak there might make you a little more competitive. I think you can do both. You can make some changes in your ballclub and bring guys along, and at the same time be more competitive than we are."

Gillick acknowledged that "sometimes you think you've got another shot at it," when asked how things got so bad so quickly. In other words, the organization probably held on too long to the belief they could compete with their current mix of players.

"Maybe we pushed them a little too far," Gillick said.

But that is partially because the Minor League system has been relatively bare, and replacing those players has been difficult.

"We have challenges, and that's one of the challenges," Gillick said about the farm system. "We're going to have to be a little creative, we're going to have to be a little imaginative, we're going to have to take a chance here and there. We're going to have to do things that are going to get us better, and I have every confidence that Ruben's that kind of guy. He's got imagination and creativity.

"I think we'll get better, but I'm not saying we'll get better completely overnight. I think it's going to take a little while."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for

Philadelphia Phillies