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Phillies look for answers after down year

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012
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Now after missing the playoffs entirely, they aim to get back in contention and make a serious run at another World Series before their aging stars are completely past their prime.

"There is urgency," Amaro said. "Our core guys are not getting any younger. The bottom line is this, if our players that we paid a great deal of money to do not perform next year, we're going to be in trouble. We need them to perform."

The Phillies owe Howard at least $105 million over the next five years. Utley has one year and $15 million left on his deal. Rollins has $33 million guaranteed over the next three seasons with an option for 2015. Lee will get at least $97.5 million for the next four years. Halladay makes $20 million next year. Cole Hamels signed a $144 million, six-year deal that begins in 2013.

Howard hit just .219 and struck out 99 times in 260 at-bats. But he also drove in 56 runs in 71 games. Utley batted just .256, the fifth straight year his average declined. Rollins hit .250, though he had a team-high 23 homers and 68 RBIs out of the leadoff spot.

Lee had a rough season, going just 6-9. But he had a 3.16 ERA and didn't get much run support. Halladay was 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA that was the second-worst in his career. Hamels went 17-6 with a 3.05 ERA.

"Ryan Howard has to perform. Chase Utley has to perform. Roy Halladay has to come back and perform," Amaro said. "And we have to get that performance out of guys like (Carlos Ruiz), Hamels and Lee. If we don't get their performance, it's going to be troublesome for us. We rely on those guys to perform. We think they will. We're hopeful they're healthy. We need to support them better."

Amaro has several holes to fill. Manager Charlie Manuel can pencil just four regulars into his lineup right now: Howard, Utley, Rollins and Ruiz. The Phillies need a third baseman and have to figure out who will play in the outfield.

Domonic Brown, a former untouchable prospect, hit .235 in 187 at-bats so he's not guaranteed a starting spot. Darin Ruf led the minor leagues with 38 homers and hit three more in 33 at-bats with the Phillies, but he still has to learn to play left field in the Venezuelan winter league.

The Phillies likely will target potential free agents B.J. Upton of Tampa Bay or Michael Bourn of Atlanta. Trading Pence gave Amaro the financial flexibility to add a high-priced player if Philadelphia chooses that route.

"There are people there who might help us," Amaro said. "That said, there may be some people on the trade market that may be better for us. The free-agent market overall on the offensive side is not fantastic, but that doesn't mean we can't get better."

Either way, Amaro has a tough task ahead.

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AP freelance writers Dan Feldman and Harvey Valentine in Washington contributed to this report.