Pete Mackanin out as Phillies manager, will finish out 2017

Pete Mackanin out as Phillies manager, will finish out 2017

Pete Mackanin is out as Phillies manager.

Mackanin will manage the Phillies' final three games this weekend against the Mets but won't return in that role in 2018, despite previously being under contract through '18 with a 2019 option.

Mackanin signed a new contract to join the Phillies' front office as a special assistant to the general manager.

The job statuses of the rest of the Phils' coaching staff will be at the discretion of the new manager.

The timing is somewhat surprising as the Phillies are 35-35 in their last 70 games and have a chance to finish over .500 after the All-Star break. They've played much better baseball the last two months as their young position players and bullpen pieces have found success.

In parts of three seasons as Phillies manager, the 66-year-old Mackanin is 172-237 (.421). He was one of eight men in Phillies history to play, coach and manage for them.

He took over for Ryne Sandberg when Sandberg abruptly resigned on June 27, 2015. The Phillies liked Mackanin's methods of communication and honesty enough to bring him back in 2016 after that interim stint, and they twice extended him to new, short-term contracts.

When Matt Klentak was hired as the Phillies' GM in October 2015, he inherited Mackanin as a manager. The two developed a relationship, but the Phillies, finally in a position to make a push toward .500 or beyond, are now headed in a different direction.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Phils opt for a young, analytically-inclined manager given Klentak's background and owner John Middleton's desire to push the Phillies to the forefront of that movement.

Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff

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Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies will be without Mark Leiter Jr.'s versatile arm for about six weeks. An MRI performed Monday on the pitcher's sore right forearm showed a strained flexor muscle.

Leiter had a good chance to make the opening day roster as a long reliever or fifth starter. With him out, the Phillies could be in need of a swingman.

Could Ben Lively be that guy?

"I can pitch anywhere," the competitive 26-year-old right-hander said. "I don't care. Wherever they want, I'll pitch."

Lively did nothing to hurt his chances of making the club as he turned in five shutout innings against Toronto Blue Jays in a rain-shortened 2-0 win Tuesday afternoon. He allowed just three hits, walked none and struck out four. He was particularly impressive in the fourth inning, striking out Justin Smoak and retiring Russell Martin on a tapper back to the mound with runners on second and third.

"I just tried to bear down and stick to the game plan," Lively said. "There's too much technology around here now. We have all the heat maps and we talked about it before the game and I just stayed with it."

Lively made 15 starts with the big club last year and 10 of them were quality starts in which he went at least six innings and gave up three or fewer earned runs. Lively doesn't have power stuff. He gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings last season and struck out just 5.3 per nine. Management would love to see some improvement in those areas — i.e., more of what he displayed on Tuesday.

"Lively was strong today," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He came out and attacked the zone.

"One of the things that is important is that we see some swing and misses with Lives and we saw a couple of bat-missing moments today that were, to me, a big deal. He induces quick contact, which is important, but we also like to see the ability to miss bats and we saw that on a couple of occasions, (Curtis) Granderson being most notable."

Granderson struck out twice against Lively.

"We look at past tendencies from recent years," Lively said of his pre-game study. "The main one we looked at today was Granderson. He has a low slugging percentage on the outer half (of the plate) so we pounded him on the outer half the whole time."

With Jerad Eickhoff headed to the disabled list and Nick Pivetta likely to join Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez in the starting rotation, Lively appears to be vying for the fifth starter's job with Zach Eflin and nonroster invite Drew Hutchison. But he and Hutchison also could be vying for a long man's job in the bullpen.

By mid-April, the Phillies will probably have an eight-man bullpen. But they could break with an extra reliever because they won't need a fifth starter until April 11.

However it shakes out, Lively did not hurt his chances of landing some role with his performance Tuesday.

Roster moves
The Phillies sent catcher Logan Moore, infielder Mitch Walding and outfielder Andrew Pullin to minor league camp.

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

Photo: NBCSP

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, has been noticeably absent from game action in minor-league camp.

Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, says there's nothing to be alarmed about.

"He had the flu and he's over it now," Jordan said. "He's fine now. No issues. He's 100 percent."

Jordan said Sanchez got up to 30 pitches in a bullpen session this week.

"He let it go with all his pitches," Jordan said.

Jordan added that Sanchez would pitch in a game in the next few days. He added that Sanchez would open the season on time with the Clearwater club, though his innings will be watched at the outset until he's fully stretched out.

Sanchez, 19, is a power-armed right-hander with remarkable control. He went 5-7 with 3.03 ERA in 18 starts at Lakewood and Clearwater, both Single A affiliates, last season. He pitched 95 innings, struck out 84, walked 18 and had a WHIP of 0.958.