PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Phillies' five-year reign atop the NL East is nearing an official end, and manager Charlie Manuel is evaluating the team's needs for next season.
The Phillies, who missed injured All-Stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for most of the first half of the season, are playing better now having won 10 of their last 14 games. But Philadelphia entered Saturday with a 67-71 record, 18 games behind first-place Washington in the division.
Philadelphia had to wait another day to continue its recent stretch of good play, as Saturday's scheduled game was postponed by rain after a delay of 2 hours, 49 minutes. The game was rescheduled as part of a day/night doubleheader on Sunday, with the first game slated to start at 1:05 p.m. and the nightcap scheduled to begin at 6:35.
Manuel said the Phillies haven't lost their edge, but maybe the toll of five straight trips to the postseason has had an effect on his players.
"I don't know if (the edge) is missing this year," Manuel said before Saturday's rainout. "When you go to two World Series and go to the playoffs five times and you go deep into the playoffs and you're going home every November, you stop to think about it, you're playing a lot of baseball.
"You count the games you play in spring training and the postseason and the regular season and you're playing a lot of baseball. You're a regular player, yeah over the course of the year it definitely takes its toll on you."
Philadelphia is a long shot to make the playoffs this season and Manuel is looking at the needs for next year.
The Phillies appear to have holes at several positions, particularly third base and possibly all three outfield positions. Outside of closer Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal before this season, Philadelphia also has question marks in the bullpen.
"Right now, I'd say our bullpen would be my first priority," Manuel said.
The Phillies have been piecing together a bullpen all season, often using young, unproven arms. Of the nine relievers, only left-hander Antonio Bastardo had a significant role in any of the Phillies' last five NL East titles.
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