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A conversation with Phillies baseball boss Dombrowski at quarter point originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Phillies reached the quarter mark of the season this week. Good time for a little perspective from president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who has been on the job for just over five months.
Dombrowski spoke with NBC Sports Philadelphia before Friday night's game against Boston. The Phillies entered the game at 22-22, 1½ games out of first place in the National League East.
Q: How do you feel about where the team is at this point?
A: "Sometimes I feel we're fortunate to be .500 and just a game and a half out. But also, I think there have been times when we've squandered opportunities in some games we could have won. We had some late-inning leads ...
"We haven't played consistently well. But I feel if we stay close, get everyone together and make some improvements, we can put a spurt together.
"I think our big-league club can compete as it is, or close to what it is, in the short term."
Q: You think it can vie for a postseason berth?
A: "Yeah, I do. I think we can compete. Now, if somebody in our division wins 100 games — I don't think we're that kind of team.
"But I think we can compete because we have a lot of good players when you look at the Big 3 (Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin), (Bryce) Harper, (J.T.) Realmuto and some of the supporting cast. I wish we could get them all on the field together. But I believe we can compete. A lot of things have to come together and we have to play well, but I believe we can compete."
Q: Defense and strikeouts (more than 10 per game, the most in the NL) have been major weaknesses. Which is more troubling?
A: "Well, I don't like either.
"I think, in our situation, going on what I'd heard and read, I really didn't think defense was going to be a strength, though I thought we could be solid. I thought we'd outscore our defensive miscues at times and right now we haven't done that.
"I thought we'd score more and part of that is when you have good hitters, usually you don't strike out this much. For me personally, the number of strikeouts is concerning.
"We face a lot of good pitching in our division, but I do think we strike out too much. Our two-strike approach needs to improve."
Q: As you evaluate the club, what holes do you think will need to be filled as the July trade deadline approaches?
A: "Well, I probably wouldn't tell you because I don't like to tip my hand. (Laughs)
"Because of injuries, we have not been together much as a team. I'd like to see how the whole team fits together.
"Three weeks ago, center field looked like a hole. Now, Odubel Herrera has played well and it's probably not the hole it was before. We'll continue to watch him. Right now, I would not put it as a big need."
Q: Spencer Howard is on his way up to help the rotation.
A: "He deserves to be here."
Q: Where do things stand with Vince Velasquez and the finger numbness that forced him to be scratched Thursday night?
A: "He's fine. He was checked out. He's ready to go."
Q: The team's payroll is about $203 million. The luxury tax threshold is $210 million. Will you be allowed to exceed that number for the right opportunity/opportunities at the trade deadline?
A: "I have not had any conversations with ownership about that, but I will say, they want to win. Nobody has ever told me you can't exceed the tax nor have I been told to stay under it. I haven't had that conversation.
"I do know they want to win around here."
Q: What happens with Scott Kingery when he comes off the concussion injured list?
A: "He's feeling better. He's gotten very little playing time. With the injuries we have and with our roster situation and lack of position-player depth, we've needed him here. But he needs to go play (at Triple A) and that will happen when he's OK."
Q: The lack of position-player depth in the minors is glaring. What's your evaluation of the system after five-plus months on the job?
A: "Our system is a continual evaluation for me at this point. We lack position-player depth at the upper levels — why is that the case? We have some better players at the lower levels. I think we have work to do there and it's not a short-term fix."