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Phillies: Window of opportunity not closed yet

CLEARWATER — Mentioning the term "window of opportunity" to the Phillies results in a wide range of reactions.

Some scoff at it. Some accept it. And some want to use it as motivation.

The Phillies are no longer the team to beat in the NL East after capturing five straight division titles between 2007-11. Injuries and inconsistency contributed to an 81-81 finish last year.

With a core of aging players, some entering the final seasons of their contracts, it's natural to wonder if the team's window for winning another world championship is closing.

"You don't want to see it but, you understand the game of baseball is a very small window and you have to do very well for that period of time you have," LHP Cole Hamels said. "Even though you don't want to hear it, it's more or less the knowledge you have to give it everything you can while you can because it's going to be taken away very fast and you don't want to regret anything.

"I think that's the idea behind what we have to do. We have to perfect everything we can. We have to play as hard as we possibly can because it's going to disappear fast and I don't want it to disappear."

But 1B Ryan Howard, 33, sees things differently.

"I don't buy into the old thing," he said. "It's all about how young you feel inside and how well you take care of yourself. Everybody in this clubhouse goes out and works their butt off. Everybody goes out in the offseason, they train and we do what we need to do to come back. If people want to call us old, that's fine, but I think going out there this year we're going to show people that we're not old."

QUOTABLE: "Do we play them anymore before the season starts? Friday? That's good. Maybe they can home run us to death and they won't hit any during the season." Phillies manager Charlie Manuel after the Braves homered four times in a 17-10 win.

Yanks: Hughes okay

TAMPA — Yankees RHP Phil Hughes appeared to escape injury when he was hit in the lower back by a one-hop comebacker in a simulated game.

Hughes was struck in his first simulated game since he was sidelined last month by a bulging disc in his upper back.

"Thank God it didn't have much of an effect," Yankees pitching coach and former Rays manager Larry Rothschild said.

Hughes, expected to pitch in a minor-league game Friday or Saturday, said he was fine.

Jays: Dickey ready

Blue Jays RHP R.A. Dickey, who returned to camp Saturday after his stint with Team USA at the World Baseball Classic, will return to the mound today in a minor-league game.

Dickey and C J.P. Arencibia rejoined Toronto after the United States was eliminated Friday night. The knuckleballer pitched five innings over two Grapefruit League appearances, then pitched another nine innings in two starts for Team USA.

.area camps

Blue Jays

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin

Tickets: (727) 733-0429, bluejays.com

Today: vs. Astros, 1:05

Phillies

Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater

Tickets: (727) 467-4457, phillies.com

Today: vs. Yankees, 1:05.

TV: ESPN

Yankees

Steinbrenner Field, 1 Steinbrenner Drive (corner Martin Luther King and Dale Mabry), Tampa Tickets: (813) 879-2244, yankees.com

Today: at Phillies, 1:05

Phillies: Window of opportunity not closed yet 03/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 8:09pm]
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