WASHINGTON – Yeah, yeah, Charlie Manuel was looking forward to watching Roy Halladay’s first start. It’s not every year that a team goes to the World Series and then goes out and adds one of baseball’s best. How could he not feel a tingle of anticipation?
In his ever-diminishing gut, though, the Phillies’ manager is a hitting guy. Pitching coach Rich Dubee joked this spring that Manuel disappeared the day all the regulars showed up to take batting practice for the first time. Hitting is what he unapologetically cares about the most.
So what really revved his motor when the regular season finally opened at Nationals Park was the chance to test-drive his brand-new lineup.
The changes were subtle. Placido Polanco replaced Pedro Feliz at third. Polanco batted second, dropping Shane Victorino down in the order. Yesterday he batted seventh. That’s it, but Manuel was convinced it would improve the productivity of a lineup that already led the league in scoring last season.
And for one game, at least, the blueprint that Manuel fantasized about played out in real life even better than it did in his head.