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Going the ExtraMileage
The defending world champs made few changes but found room for a steady36-year-old

RAUL IBAÑEZ'Sbirthday is June 2. If you need a gift idea for the Phillies' new leftfielder,you might consider a nice day planner, maybe one with an address book. Earlierthis spring Ibañez was standing in the team's Clearwater, Fla., clubhouse, hisbrow furrowed as he tried to list the various trainers and instructors he seesas part of his off-season workout regimen. "There's probably, let's see,three, four, five guys," he said, counting on one hand. "The stretchguy, he's a couple times a week. The Active Release Technique guy a coupletimes a week. My strength-and-speed guy, who works with a lot of NFL combineguys, three days a week. Jujitsu, once a week. Maybe twice...."

When that birthdayrolls around, Ibañez will turn 37, which makes the three-year, $31.5 milliondeal the world champs gave him in December an eye-opener. (In the currentdepressed market, 29-year-old Adam Dunn could only get two years at $10 millionper from the Nationals.) But because of his overbooked workout calendar, Ibañezdoesn't look like a guy who's old enough to run for president. If he were acar, he'd be advertised as "gently used." Ibañez didn't become aneveryday player until he was 29, and durability has become a hallmark. He hasmissed only 16 games over the past four seasons, and none last year with theMariners. (Thank the jujitsu for that. Ibañez took up the Brazilian martial artin 2007 to help with his flexibility and, he says, "to learn how tofall.")

Philadelphiasigned Ibañez to replace Pat Burrell, who in nine seasons hit more homers as aPhillie (251) than everyone but Mike Schmidt and Del Ennis but was allowed toleave as a free agent without so much as a courtesy offer. There were twoknocks on Pat the Bat. First, no one was ever going to call him Pat the Glove.Burrell, 32, didn't get to many balls in left, and when he did, he didn'talways handle them well, meaning that manager Charlie Manuel routinely sat theBat in late innings. Ibañez won't make anyone forget Barry Bonds in his prime,but he's certainly an upgrade.

Burrell's othershortcoming was at the plate, where he was just as prone to kill a rally as ahanging curve. "Raul doesn't give us as much raw power as Pat, but we feltlike he was going to be a more consistent hitter," says general managerRuben Amaro Jr. (Manuel echoed the sentiment when he used the word consistentthree times in 10 seconds while talking about Iba√±ez.) Burrell hit .215 in thesecond half of 2008—the same average he had in the first half of '07—and he hit.234 with runners in scoring position for the entire season. Iba√±ez, on theother hand, has been largely immune from peaks and valleys; in his sevenseasons as a regular, he's never hit worse than .260 in a half. And he's acareer .305 hitter with runners in scoring position.

Ibañez says hechose the Phils for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that theworld champs are returning virtually intact. Aside from Burrell, the onlysignificant contributor missing from 2008 is J.C. Romero. The southpaw reliefspecialist will miss the first 50 games of the season after testing positivefor steroids, the result, he said, of a tainted supplement. "Our firstpriority, with J.C. Romero down, is to find somebody who can give us inningsout of the bullpen," says Manuel. Short-term possibilities to take Romero'sspot include Scott Eyre and J.A. Happ (who's also in the running for the fifthstarter spot). Both are tough on lefties, but neither is as brutal as Romero,who held them to a .102 average in 111 plate appearances last year.

Romero and hiscolleagues made closing out games routine last year, a large reason whyPhiladelphia won its second world title in 125 years. The Phillies blew anNL-low 15 saves and were 65--7 when leading after five innings. This year'sbullpen competition will play out in front of a wide audience; MLB Networkcameras will follow Philadelphia's relievers to gather footage for a six-partreality show called The Pen, which will premiere in June. You'll excuse Manuelfor hoping the show is devoid of drama.

CONSIDER THIS AModest Proposal ...

Having replacedlumbering Pat Burrell in leftfield with lumbering Raul Ibañez, the Philliesfind themselves with the 3-4-5 part of their lineup batting exclusively fromthe left side. That will be a major tactical issue late in games, when opposingmanagers bring in relief specialists to face Chase Utley, Ryan Howard andIbañez in high-leverage situations. All lefthanded hitters struggle againstsuch lefties as the Braves' Mike Gonzalez and the Mets' Pedro Feliciano.Sliding Jayson Werth (left, career .374 on-base percentage, .545 sluggingversus lefthanders) into the fifth spot ahead of Ibañez would force managers tochoose between making a pitching change or taking a bad matchup, a decisionthat will come up repeatedly in the 36 games Philadelphia plays against its toptwo division rivals.


DON'T LIE 3.22

ERA of thePhillies' bullpen last season, best in the National League. That indicates anability to handle pressure on a consistent basis, and Philadelphia relieversproved to be even better in the tightest spots. In save situations (whichincludes hold opportunities for setup men), Philly's pen had an ERA of2.57—more than half a run better than the next best team in the NL, theDodgers.

The Lineup

Manager CharlieManuel

[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

B-T: Bats-throws
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 69)


December 6, 1993

Lenny Dykstra told Schueller about a bottle ofsomething he once had for dessert at Caesars Palace, something called Ch√¢teaud'Yquem. The wine steward pointed out the listing to Schueller, who turned toDykstra and said, "They're offering you a bottle for 16,000 francs."That's almost $3,000, but Dykstra nodded as if Schueller had leaned out of adrive-through window to tell him he would have to take a chocolate milkshakeinstead of vanilla. And suddenly everyone around Dykstra began to treat himmore appreciatively. Ordering such a bottle of wine was like homering to rallyyour team in the seventh inning of Game 6 in the World Series—and Dykstra haddone that too.

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CLUTCH UPGRADE Ibañez brings many of the skills of his predecessor and is a better hitter with runners in scoring position.