Young, talented Phillies plan to be back in Series

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NEW YORK --- Charlie Manuel was heading to the interview room when he spotted a reporter walking alongside.

"Two out of three, that's what I told them," Manuel said.

Sounds like the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager already have set their goal for 2010.

The Phillies fell two wins short of becoming the first National League team in 33 years to win consecutive World Series titles, losing to the New York Yankees in six games. Looking ahead to next season, they see plenty of reasons for optimism.

"We've got a good team, and we love to play baseball," Manuel said. "We will be back."

The team has a young nucleus of star players who are under contract for at least one more season. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton are all 30 years old or younger.

In five seasons in Philadelphia, Manuel has led the Phillies to three consecutive NL East titles and the franchise's second championship. He plans to keep adding to that résumé.

"I think we're in a span right here where within the next couple years, that's going to be very important for us," Manuel said. "I think it's going to be our heydays, as you might say. It's very important for the next couple years that we stay afloat. But at the same time, I think we have the talent, and I think that we can tinker with our team enough to even get better."

The Cincinnati Reds were the last NL club to win two consecutive World Series titles in 1975-76. It had been 13 years since an NL team had even won consecutive pennants. The Phillies cruised to another division title with 93 regular-season wins. They eliminated Colorado in four games in the first round of the playoffs and knocked off the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games for the second consecutive year in the NLCS.

But the Phillies ran into the best team money can buy in the World Series. Determined to win their 27th title and first since 2000, the Yankees went on a $423.5 million spending spree last off-season. The additions of pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira boosted New York's opening day-payroll to $201 million. They had a major impact on the Yankees' success.

"It says a lot about the character and chemistry that we made it back here again," Victorino said. "Some teams win it, and you never hear from them again. But you can't take anything away from the Yankees. They had a great season. The positive is we were here for a second season in a row, and there's no reason to think we can't make it three or four seasons."

Pitchers Pedro Martinez, Chan Ho Park, Brett Myers and Scott Eyre are the only significant players who can become free agents.

"We're proud of what we did," said closer Brad Lidge. "We think we can be back here again and again.


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