"Last year the league discovered how vulnerable we were to left-handed pitching," said Gene Mauch, the Phillies' no-nonsense manager. "Now I've got an antidote for that left-handed poison." The medicine is right-hand-hitting Dick Stuart, obtained from Boston, where he had 75 homers and 232 RBIs in two years. He joins holdover power hitters John Callison and Richie Allen. Callison, who finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting, tied for third in homers (31), was fifth in RBIs (104) and led the majors in driving in game-winning runs (12). He still isn't satisfied, although most managers feel that he is nearly perfect. "Every season I try to improve in something," Callison said in Florida. "This year I am going to use a heavier bat, try to make more contact with the ball and raise my average [.274]." Allen, Rookie of the Year last year, hit .318, had 29 home runs and 91 RBIs and led the league in runs scored and total bases. He also struck out 138 times, which is not only a new NL record but eight more strikeouts than Stuart had, and Stuart has a reputation for that sort of thing. This spring Allen held out ("They won and I lost," he said after he signed), but all he needed to do to be ready to play was shave off his goatee and mustache. Shorn, he hit a dozen balls over the left-field fence the first day of practice and seemed ready to ignore the so-called sophomore jinx.
With Callison in the outfield will be Tony Gonzalez in center and Alex Johnson in left. Gonzalez, .278 last year, was a .300 hitter in 1962 and 1963. Johnson (.303 in 43 games as a rookie in 1964) is said to be the best "anything" hitter in baseball. "He is not a good-ball hitter or a bad-ball hitter," says teammate John Briggs. "He just swings at anything and hits it often and far." If Johnson swings—and misses—too often, then Frank Thomas (.294 BA and 26 RBIs in 39 games with the Phils late last year) will take over. The Phils' bench is strong. With both Bobby Wine and Ruben Amaro laid up with bad back injuries, Cookie Rojas, the dandy utility man who played seven different positions last year and batted .291, will probably start the season at shortstop. When everyone is well, Mauch will have a collection of pinch hitters in reserve that will include Thomas, Rojas, Wes Covington, Gus Triandos and either Wine or Amaro.
Right-hander Jim Bunning (19-8, 2.63 ERA) and left-hander Chris Short (17-9, 2.20 ERA—third best in the NL) are two of the strongest starting pitchers in the majors. Behind them are question marks. Both Art Mahaffey and Ray Culp, who totaled 20 wins against 16 defeats last season, came down with sore arms late in the pennant race, and neither was encouraging during spring training. That means that Bo Belinsky, who won nine games and had a fine 2.87 ERA with the Angels last year, will probably be Philadelphia's third starter. "I like it here," said Bo, who was treated tenderly by Mauch during the spring. "They don't horse you around the way they do in L.A. I haven't shown too much yet, because I don't want these National Leaguers to see my screwjie until we're playing for the money. This catcher [Clay Dalrymple] will be a big help to me. I've never seen anyone call a stronger or a smarter game." In yet another attempt to fill out his pitching staff, Mauch obtained righthander Ray Herbert from the White Sox. Herbert is 35 and had a sore arm last season, but he is a smart pitcher and could be a pleasant surprise as a spot starter.
In the bullpen the Phils have one of baseball's most durable relievers, Jack Baldschun. Over the past four seasons he appeared in 268 games and won 34 while saving 42 (6 wins and 17 saves in 71 games in 1964). Almost as hard-working last year was sinker-ball specialist Ed Roebuck, who had five victories and 10 saves in 60 games and a sparkling 2.22 ERA.
Dalrymple handles things very well behind the plate, and Callison, in right, is a superb fielder. For the third straight year he led all NL outfielders in assists with 19, and only three other outfielders in the league made more put-outs; all three were center fielders. The remainder of the outfield is spotty. Gonzalez, in center, was charged with only one error last season, but too many balls that should have been caught dropped in for hits. Johnson can chase a ball in left, but Thomas and Covington are paid for swinging a bat, and that's about all they can do. Both Wine and Amaro (who also played second and first last year) are superior shortstops, and both work nicely with Second Baseman Tony Taylor on the double play. Rojas, the interim shortstop, is probably the best utility man in the league. Stuart came to the Phils with a reputation as a monumentally bad fielder and did nothing to dispel it during spring training. Allen, a converted outfielder, tried hard last year but led all major league third basemen in errors (41).
Stuart and Belinsky are being counted on to give the Phils the edge in another tight NL pennant race. But neither player has been known for his team spirit in the past and Manager Mauch may have a tiger's tail in each hand.
Richie Allen's violent swing got him 201 hits last season—and a new league strikeout record.