For Ruben Amaro, life has been good. He's been able to go beyond his expectations of what he thought baseball would provide for him and he's content with how the job is working out.
Amaro was born and raised in Philadelphia by virtue of his father being the Phillies shortstop and then serving as their first base coach. Thanks to that connection, Amaro served as the Phillies bat boy from 1980 through 1983 before he headed for Stanford University where he earned a BS degree in human biology and played a role with Stanford's 1987 National Championship baseball team.
After college, Amaro didn't have to look far for his next adventure when the Angels drafted him in the 11th round of the 1987 Draft and four years later, he was in the majors with the club before being dealt to the Phillies following the '91 season. Amaro played primarily in Philadelphia throughout his career, with the exception of a two season stint with the Indians in the mid-'90s. He finished his career with the Phillies as a player following the 1998 season, but his next job was already waiting for him thanks to a conversation he had in the Spring of '98.
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|Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. talked with PBN Publisher Chuck Hixson about his rise through the organization, the off-season and various other topics, which weren't covered in this article. PBN Premium Pass members can Listen to Audio.
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"I talked to Ed [Wade] in the Spring of '98. I walked up to him, in uniform, and said 'Ed, I'd like to continue in baseball and I'd love to stay with the Phillies'," remembered Amaro. At the time though, Amaro had no idea what would be waiting for him at the end of the season. When Wade offered him the assistant general manager's spot, Amaro was genuinely surprised.
"I really thought I'd be on the field as a coach in the minor leagues and work my way up, but then Ed gave me the opportunity to take the assistant job. I was terribly fortunate." said Amaro.
After following not only Wade, but potential Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick in the Phillies front office, Amaro has done well for himself, especially in working out deals to avoid arbitration with various players. The Phillies came into the off-season with ten arbitration eligible players and have cut that down to just one. Much like the unexpected offer to move directly to the Phillies front office, Amaro has been surprised by the early success.
"It's a difficult process to get deals done," explained Amaro. "To be in this position now, with where we were earlier, especially being a World Series team, is a pretty tough task." For his part though, Amaro is quick to throw credit to Scott Proefrock, his new assistant GM, who came to the Phillies from the Baltimore Orioles organization. "To be able to work with him on all of these deals has been great, he's done a heck of a job."
So, with just Ryan Howard left to sign, can Amaro make it a sweep of his arbitration eligible players? "Well, that's a tough one. You can't always avoid arbitration, but I suppose anything is possible."
As for any other restructuring of the current club, Amaro confirmed that he is interested in adding Nomar Garciaparra, if he decides to play one more season in the majors. He's also looking for more help for the bullpen, but doesn't have the salary he would need to pursue any other starting pitching. "I'd like to think that we're at the point on our payroll, where those guys [Braden Looper, Jon Garland or Randy Wolf] wouldn't fit. We're really kind of looking more for bullpen help," admitted Amaro. "We are looking at some guys from outside the organization to add some depth and experience for us in the bullpen."
The final spot in the starting rotation appears to be coming down to Carlos Carrasco, J.A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick and Chan Ho Park, according to Amaro. If Park or Happ lose out on that job, they could conceivably head to the bullpen, but Kendrick and Carrasco would likely head for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, who could have a pretty well stacked roster.
"Right now, I don't see our team being vastly different from what it is now at the start of spring training," said Amaro.