MLB Philadelphia Phillies

Five Easy Fixes Ruben Amaro Can Make To Improve Philadelphia Phillies For 2014

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5 Easy Fixes to Make Phillies a 2014 Contender

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There have been no reported sightings of Philadelphia Phillies fans on any area bridges, despite this nightmarish season.

The mourning period for this season has long been over, and there is a general acceptance now that the team is just not good enough as currently constituted. On the other hand, there is hope. For this team to improve, it needs to think outside the box, and there are indications that already is happening.

The baseball norms have got to be thrown out the window in order for the Phillies to become even a wild-card contender next season. They have to get away from using Jonathan Papelbon all of the time with a lead in the ninth inning just because he’s a designated closer. If another reliever is pitching particularly well, that has to be on the table for next season.

Fortunately, current interim and almost surely future permanent manager, Ryne Sandberg, has shown he can think outside the box. One of Sandberg's ideas is to move center fielder Ben Revere to left in order to hide his inadequate throwing arm. He also gave a clear indication that he is using his head for more than a baseball cap when he said there is a possibility that Ryan Howard could be platooned at first base next season. Since Howard has hit an alarmingly consistent .173 against left-handed pitching in each of the last two seasons, that might not be a bad idea. For the Phillies to really improve, Sandberg will also need some help from GM Ruben Amaro Jr.

These are five moves the two can make to become an immediate contender.

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5. Sign a Top-Level Bullpen Guy

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Is there a better name for a pitcher than Grant Balfour? Maybe Sammy Strike Three, but the Phillies can look at a long list of available relievers who have the ability to be both set-up guys and close when asked, and Balfour might be on the top of that list. Since he's in small-market Oakland, the Phillies have considerably deeper pockets to win a bidding war for his services with that or any team.

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4. Platoon at Both Infield Corners

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First baseman Ryan Howard, now injured, is expected to be back at 100 percent for next season's opener. He was 100 percent for last season's opener and this season's opener, and he proved he cannot hit left-handed pitching both times, hitting .173 each season. The solution is simple: Move right-handed hitter Darin Ruf to first base on the few days opponents use lefties against the Phillies. The same solution applies to the Phils at third, where they have two top prospects, Cody Asche and Maikel Franco. Fortunately for them, one hits left and one hits right. Platooning is a way to build confidence for those two and decide which one to trade and which one to keep at the end of the 2014 season.

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3. Hire Jamie Moyer as Pitching Coach

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When he was with the Phillies, there was no more respected pitcher than Moyer, who was the team's defacto pitching coach. Rich Dubee was the actual coach during that time, as he is now, but the pitchers listened to what Moyer had to say most. Moyer would be a great influence on Roy Halladay as he transitions to a finesse pitcher and might be able to help Cole Hamels turn around this losing season. Moyer is from the Philadelphia area and a good friend of Sandberg, so it's a tremendous fit.

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2. Move Ben Revere to Left

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If the Phillies move Revere to left, it opens up a spot for them to balance their lineup by signing a right-handed power-hitting outfielder. If they have to, they can move Domonic Brown to center to make room. That would give them two power-hitters in the outfield, along with increased power from the infield corners and also hide the liability that is Revere's arm.

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1. Sign Catcher Brian McCann

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With the platoons at the corners, the Phillies can afford to get rid of 34-year-old right-handed hitting catcher Carlos Ruiz in favor of 29-year-old free agent and left-handed hitting McCann, who is an upgrade in every way over Ruiz. With McCann in the lineup, plus added power from the infield corners and two outfield spots, that gives the Phillies the kind of formidable lineup they don't have now.

Mike Gibson is a Phillies writer for Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.