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PHI@WSH: Ruf flies out to drive in a run for Philly

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins has seen pretty much everything since he joined the Phillies in 2000.

He has learned a few things in that time, too.

The latest?

"Stay healthy," he said following Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park, which officially ended the club's disappointing 2012 season.

The Phillies finished 81-81, snapping their run of nine consecutive winning seasons. It is a minor accomplishment they finished .500, considering they stood 14 games under .500 on July 13 and traded Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

But finishing .500 is just a very small consolation prize for a team that had won five consecutive National League East championships and will miss the postseason for the first time since 2006, making way for the younger and immensely talented Nationals.

Rollins said things would have been different had they stayed healthy.

"They had a good year," he said of the Nationals. "They're a talented team. Just playing against them for a while you know they're talented. You always knew if they put it together and found some pitching ... and they've had the opportunity to have some big Draft picks, and those guys have made it up to the big leagues and it's all come together for them. So that's great for them. But with us being healthy, you know, they're still second place. But we weren't [healthy]."

Rollins' confidence in his team is unbowed, but clearly changes need to be made.

"Oh, there is going to be some changes, definitely," Rollins said. "Some issues have to be addressed. I know we're probably going to try to find a right-handed hitter. [Darin] Ruf came up and he's definitely going to make decisions tough for guys. But there are going to be guys out there, and, the Winter Meetings come along, free agents pop up, trades come about, and we'll see who we end up with. But for the most part, the team isn't going to be that much different as far the everyday players, the regular pieces."

The Phillies believed they could survive injuries this year to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley because they had survived injuries in the past. But in the past, they had a strong supporting cast to soften the blow. They lacked one in 2012.

Carlos Ruiz had a big season, but every other spot in the lineup faltered while Utley and Howard healed.

Rollins had a .713 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at the All-Star break, which put him on pace for his lowest production (.707) since 2003. He rebounded in the second half to finish sixth among 21 qualifying shortstops in baseball with a .746 OPS. Placido Polanco continued to battle multiple injuries on his way to the worst season of his career. John Mayberry Jr. failed to take advantage of regular playing time, much like Ben Francisco the season before him. Victorino and Pence performed below their career averages.

The Phillies managed the best they could at first base and second base without Howard and Utley. Sure, Freddy Galvis was a wizard defensively at second, but he carried a mediocre .254 on-base percentage, while Ty Wigginton and Mayberry managed the best they could at first base.

The Phillies really could use a new bat or two to help next season.

"As a pitcher, you definitely want to see it," said Cliff Lee, who allowed three runs in six innings in Wednesday's loss. "It's not my job to make decisions. I know that [general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.] is going to do the best job he can to get the things we need. ... It's turned into more of a pitching team. It's nice when you have pitching and offense. A lot of that is due to the guys that have been injured. Chase missing the time that he did, and Ryan the same thing -- any offense is going to feel the impact of those. We'll see what happens."

The offense might not have been such an issue, except the pitching suffered, too.

Roy Halladay never looked like himself, battling back and shoulder issues from the beginning to the end of the year. Lee had a bad stretch or two, but otherwise suffered from anemic run support. Vance Worley struggled while pitching with a loose body and spur in his right elbow, which ultimately required surgery.

The bullpen proved to be a weak link early in the season, especially after losing Jose Contreras, Mike Stutes and David Herndon to injuries. Chad Qualls proved to be a disappointment, especially considering the Phillies thought of him as a setup man. The bullpen had a 3.91 ERA in the first half, which ranked 15th in the NL. It entered Wednesday with a 2.97 ERA, which ranked fourth in the league.

So there is some promise in the 'pen.

"For me, next year, if we're not the top bullpen in Major League Baseball, we'll definitely be the top in the National League," closer Jonathan Papelbon said. "That's just the way I look at it. ... I think we have a lot of talent in this clubhouse. I think we just have to find a way to play together. We didn't really get many opportunities to play together this year."

The Phillies are hopeful a tweak here and there to the 25-man roster, plus improved health from star players like Utley, Howard and Halladay will be enough to return them to the top of the NL standings.

But, really, the Phillies have no choice but to think that way, because Rollins is right. The Phillies probably won't look much different in February, when they open Spring Training. They pretty much have to win with what they have.

"It didn't happen this year," Rollins said. "It's pretty obvious the reasons why, no excuses. Reasons that we weren't in the race pretty much for a lot of the season. We gave ourselves a chance when we got healthy."

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