CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Here are the facts, and nothing but: After getting off to a slow start last season, center fielder Ben Revere got hot. From May 19 through July 13, he batted .345 with a .371 on base percentage from the leadoff spot. The Phillies had a winning record (26-25) in that stretch.
Then Revere fouled a ball off his right foot. He underwent surgery to repair the fracture and missed the rest of the season. The Phillies went 27-41 in his absence.
Baseball is a team game. And there are multiple reasons why the Phillies faded in the second half. But clearly, it helps any team to have its leadoff hitter getting on base.
"His offense came along as he adapted to the National League," said manager Ryne Sandberg. "The best baseball we played was last year when he got hot. We got back to .500 at the All-Star break and he was in the middle of all that, hitting the ball well and creating some havoc on the basepaths. Getting two or three hits a game, stealing bases and scoring runs, really creating a spark."
Sandberg noted that Revere was missed defensively as well.
"He was coming along very well, showing improvement out there. I think it took him a while to get used to the home ball park and the National League as far as playing defense," Sandberg said. "He's working on getting really good at charging the ball. He's also really good at having a good release to hold the baserunners. And I've seen some improvement in his arm out there."
Hamels upbeat, encouraged by progress
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ace left-hander Cole Hamels pronounced himself ready to throw his first bullpen session of the spring after throwing from 60 feet on flat ground Sunday at the Carpenter Complex. That's good news for the Phillies, who hope he'll miss only a couple regular-season starts after an offseason bout with biceps tendinitis.
An upbeat Hamels said he's pleased with not only his throwing progress but the fact that he was cleared to begin lifting weights again about a week ago.
"It feels good. I feel really good. I've made tremendous progress," he said. "I think I've been able to do everything to the best of my ability at the right time, at the right pace. Everything has been that slow progression, and now I feel like my body is capable of making the big jumps.
Hamels said he isn't ready to put a timetable on his return.
"I really don't know. I know right now I'm happy with where I am," he said. "I know I'm going to have the big strides and get used to pitching up and down, mixing in bullpens. That's a different intensity. Different sorenesses come up. But I feel comfortable that nothing is painful. It's just the soreness of throwing a baseball, not in a specific area, so I think that's better."
Said pitching coach Bob McClure: "He was good. Real good. Free and easy."
Hamels said he'd prefer to build up to at least 100 pitches before his first start of the regular season, but that's not a necessity.
"The ultimate goal of every pitcher is to pitch a complete game, so 100 pitches gives you a better opportunity than 90 or 85. That's what I'm working toward," Hamels said. "But if that doesn't happen and I'm at 80 or 85, I feel like I still can give the team a really good chance. I'm also really confident in the bullpen this year … it's been fun to see them."
Sandberg to take aggressive approach to replay
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- After attending a meeting on expanded instant replay, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg made it clear that he's given a lot of thought about how he plans to utilize the new challenge system.
"The first thing I'll look for is an impact type of a play in the game, even in the first inning. A bases-loaded double that is fair and it's really foul. There would be a problem there," he said. "I think we're going to have five TV games where I'll be able to practice it. I'll also find myself in Spring Training games just looking at some plays and getting the wheels turning about what I would do in that situation."
Sandberg anticipates that he'll be aggressive in making use of his challenges, even early in games.
"First of all, my tendency is to go right away on a play and react, so that's where the communication with the bench will be important. I'm not one to let a play happen and then lay back," he said. "All that will be second nature as far as going out there and talking with the umpires and possibly have them gather up and get some other angles, which is standard. Then the next thing would be to work around and get a look at the bench and see what they say and what the video shows and then make a judgment whether to challenge or not."
• The Phillies will hold an intrasquad game Tuesday. "We'll basically split up two teams somewhat evenly, create some good competition and get some [younger] guys in there with the more experienced players. Hopefully it will be a quality game," said manager Ryne Sandberg.
Left-hander Jesse Biddle, rated the Phillies top prospect by MLB.com, right-hander Ethan Martin (No. 9) and David Buchanan are tentatively scheduled to pitch two innings each while Justin DeFratus, Luis Garcia, Jeremy Horst, Cesar Jimenez, Shawn Camp and Kenny Giles are likely to get an inning each.
• The Phillies open the Grapefruit League season Wednesday against the Blue Jays at Bright House Field.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.