- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Albert Pujols isn't the only one who thinks he needs to set a deadline to keep his contract talks from being a distraction.
Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Monday that if he isn't able to agree to an extension before the season starts, he doesn't want to discuss it anymore.
Manuel's contract expires after this season. And although his agent, Pat Rooney, has been talking with the Phillies since December about an extension, the two sides still haven't been able to come to terms.
When he was asked on Monday -- facetiously-- whether he planned to set a deadline like Pujols did, Manuel turned uncharacteristically serious.
"I think, once the seasons starts, I don't want to talk about my contract," he said.
The 67-year-old Manuel has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he doesn't want his status to become an issue that lingers as either a big story line or a topic in his clubhouse. And he repeated those sentiments Monday.
"My extension and my contract -- I definitely don't want it to be a distraction for my team," Manuel said. "I definitely put my team first."
Manuel is in the final season of a three-year extension that he signed after the 2008 season. It's believed he will earn approximately $3 million this year, making him the highest-paid manager in team history.
While manager salaries aren't made public, media reports have indicated that at least four managers will earn more than Manuel this season -- the Cardinals' Tony La Russa, the Angels' Mike Scioscia, the Red Sox's Terry Francona and the Reds' Dusty Baker. The Yankees' Joe Girardi is also believed to be making approximately $3 million this year, in the first season of his new contract.
When informed that Manuel had set at least an informal deadline for the completion of his extension, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told ESPN.com on Monday that the Phillies consider the talks to "be more fluid for us. If that's something he wants to impose, that's fine. I can understand that. Charlie's one of those guys that's determined not to make this a distraction, and it won't be."
Amaro reiterated that he's still "hopeful" a deal can get done.
"We want him to be our manager," the GM said. "And we're hopeful we can make that happen."
But if a deal isn't agreed to before the end of spring training, Amaro said he had no worries about Manuel's status becoming a distraction for his team.
"I'm not worried about that," he said. "I'll let other people worry about distractions. ... It wouldn't be the first time in the world where a manager goes into the season without a contract extension. There's a lot of those, actually."
Jayson Stark is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com.
6hTony Lee, Special to ESPN.com