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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Philadelphia Phillies Sign Former Batboy as GM

PHILADELPHIA (AP)—With the enviable task of repeating as World Series champions ahead of them, the Phillies turned to a former bat boy to take over as their general manager.

Ruben Amaro Jr. signed a three-year contract Monday to become general manager of the Phillies a quarter-century after he was handing lumber to Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton as a starry-eyed teenager.

Amaro just completed his 10th season as assistant Phillies GM and replaces the retiring Pat Gillick, who will remain with the team as an adviser. The team announced the move five days after beating the Tampa Bay Rays its second title in franchise history.

“Pat, you’ve made it a little tough for me, a tough act to follow,” Amaro told Gillick at a news conference.

The 43-year-old Amaro, whose father Ruben Amaro Sr. was a Phillies shortstop from 1960-65 and first base coach for the club, recalled being around Schmidt, reliever Tug Mcgraw and shortstop Larry Bowa as a bat boy from 1980-83—in 1980 the Phillies won the only other championship in their 126-year history.

He later spent parts of eight seasons as a major league player, including a stint with the 1993 Phillies team that lost to Toronto in the World Series.

Amaro worked under former GM Ed Wade for seven seasons and the last three with Gillick. He was considered the front-runner for the job after Gillick said this would be his last season—despite pleas from ownership to get him to stay.

“Our goals will remain the same and that’s to bring championships here to Philadelphia,” Amaro said. “The biggest challenge is to repeat. That’s the biggest challenge in baseball.”

Amaro got the nod over Mike Arbuckle, another assistant GM who spent the last 15 years with the Phillies. Arbuckle, who led the team’s scouting efforts, will not be returning next year, team president Dave Montgomery said.

Arbuckle oversaw a farm system that produced much of the Phillies current core, including shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley, first baseman Ryan Howard and pitcher Cole Hamels, the World Series MVP.

Montgomery said he had a “difficult” conversation with Arbuckle on Saturday, telling him that Amaro would be getting the job. Arbuckle said he wanted to be a general manager and would be pursuing other opportunities.

Under Gillick, the Phillies won two division titles before advancing to the World Series this year. The 71-year-old has a long track record as GM of Toronto (1978-94), Baltimore (1996-98), Seattle (2000-03) and Philadelphia. He won two titles with Toronto, including the 1993 win over the Phillies.

In Philadelphia, he traded for closer Brad Lidge last offseason and made a late move for Oakland starter Joe Blanton. Lidge was perfect in save situations in both the regular and postseason, while Blanton went 2-0 in three postseason starts.

But not all of Gillick’s trades worked so well, notably the acquisition of the very expensive pitcher Freddy Garcia, who won just one game before being shut down with a shoulder injury.

Amaro has many decisions to make as he gets ready to head to this week’s general managers’ meetings in Dana Point, Calif.

He will have to decide whether to bring back left fielder Pat Burrell and soon-to-be 46-year-old pitcher Jamie Moyer. He will also have to consider possible long-term contracts for Hamels and MVP candidate Ryan Howard.

Burrell, who hit .250 with 33 homers and 86 RBIs in the regular season, wants to return. So does Moyer, who had a team-best 16 wins.

The 32-year-old Burrell made $14 million this season, and will likely get a more lucrative free-agent offer from another team.

Amaro, a Stanford University graduate whose father wanted him to be a doctor or a soccer player, said he was still trying to soak it all in.

“It’s a little surreal,” he said. “For the life of me, I would have never thought I would have been in this position.”