CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel, who described himself as "one of the best evaluators in the game," took one last look at his Phillies in their Florida finale Thursday and declared, "We can be a playoff team."
"I feel like it's time for the season to start, it's time to see what we've got," Manuel said. "When the season opens, that's when we'll see what we've got. Everything goes back to zero. That's when the the games start to count.
"We've got to outplay the best baseball we've ever played. If we do that, we're going to win our division."
The Phillies finished third in the National League East last year with an 81-81 record after winning the division each of the previous five years.
"I feel much better than I did leaving camp last year," Manuel said. "We've got our Nos. 3 and 4 hitters this year. I like having Ryan Howard and Chase Utley healthy. I like what Ben Revere and Michael Young bring to us."
Final spring outing encourages Doc, Dubee
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The numbers -- two runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings -- were hardly spectacular, but Roy Halladay was nonetheless pleased with the way he pitched Thursday against the Blue Jays in his final appearance of the spring.
The 35-year-old right-hander said he is "really excited" about the season ahead, which is good news for worried Phillies fans after the two-time Cy Young Award winner had an up-and-down spring.
"I felt good, I'm happy with where I'm at," Halladay said, as he hurried to dress and catch the Phillies' charter flight to Philadelphia following their 7-2 victory against the Blue Jays. "I'm excited. I'm excited to come out of Spring Training feeling the way I feel, physically and mechanically. There's still a few things I feel I can improve on, but I'm happy with my delivery.
"Physically, it's night and day, last year compared to this year, which was the goal. Physically, this is almost as good as I've felt in five years, as far as my total body. I'm just a tick behind where I want to be."
Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee agreed.
"I thought there were a lot of goods today," Dubee said. "I thought today was a big 'up' day. He's gaining momentum. Gradually, he's getting back the strength that he lost when he was sick with the flu. That kind of set him back.
"But health-wise, I think he's fine. Like every pitcher, he's going to have to go to Plan B and Plan C some days. But how much more experience can a guy have? He may not have the same bullets, but he's still going to pitch plenty of big games for us. When you look at a player, you look at two things: ability and character. And he certainly has a lot of both."
Phillies prefer hot-hitting Brown in left field
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Domonic Brown, who has enjoyed an outstanding spring, belting seven home runs and driving in 17 runs, could hold the key to the Phillies' chances this season.
"He definitely could have a big impact, especially if our other guys are good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think he's come a long way. I think he's matured. I think he's learned a lot in the time he's been in the big leagues."
Brown started in left field in a 7-2 win against the Blue Jays on Thursday, and that is where Manuel plans to play him until something forces the Phillies' manager to change his mind.
"I think he's earned that right," Manuel said. "He's improved both places [left field and right], but I like him better in left field."
Laynce Nix, who homered Thursday, and John Mayberry, Jr., will probably alternate in right field until Delmon Young recovers from ankle surgery and is ready to return in a month or so. Young will remain in Florida to rehab, while the Phillies fly north for a two-game set against the Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park before Opening Day.
"They can have April," Young told reporters Thursday. "I want October."
• Revere hit leadoff Thursday with Jimmy Rollins hitting second, as Manuel continues to alternate the duo atop the lineup in the final week of spring.
"My main thing is get on first base," Revere said. "Get my on-base percentage up. If I can do that, I can make the big man in the front office happy and big men batting behind me ... all these big men happy. That's my focus, try to get on first base."
• Manuel singled out Freddy Galvis as one of the Phillies who has shown significant improvement this spring.
"I don't want him swinging for the fences, but he's definitely stronger," Manuel said. "I think he's improved quite a bit."
• Reliever Zach Miner, who is attempting a comeback with the Phillies, still does not know where he will open the season.
"It's good just to be back, to have my stuff back, and not have my elbow hurt every time I throw the ball," said Miner, who has not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2009 with Detroit.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.