Pete Mackanin ‘proud’ of career in baseball ahead of Phillies’ managerial finale

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Pete Mackanin ‘proud’ of career in baseball ahead of Phillies’ managerial finale

Pete Mackanin will arrive early at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, as always. He’ll no doubt be friendly and kind to all the people he passes in the hallways. He’ll probably tell a corny joke or two before filling out a lineup card for the 412th time as Phillies manager.

Then he’ll put on a baseball uniform for perhaps the final time in a 49-year career during which he’s done just about everything in the game he loves.

“One thing that I’m proud of is that I’ve been a minor-league player, a minor-league manager, a minor-league field coordinator, a major-league advance scout, a coverage scout at the big-league level. I’ve been a coach in the big leagues, third base. I’ve been a bench coach. I’ve been an interim manager and a manager,” Mackanin said from his office Saturday. “I’ve done pretty much everything there is to do other than GM, which there’s no way I’d ever want that job.”

It was a general manager who decided Mackanin won’t manage the Phillies after the 2017 season finale Sunday against the New York Mets. Matt Klentak, the 37-year-old Ivy League guy with a soft spot for analytics who inherited Mackanin, decided he wanted his own man to guide the team in 2018. After being a caretaker during a painful rebuild, the 66-year-old baseball lifer won’t get to be in the dugout to see if all the young talent can put it together and become a contender.

“I feel that I’m fortunate to have got this job and the other jobs that I’ve gotten as a manager,” said Mackanin, who also had short stints as an interim skipper with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati a decade ago. “There are only so many of them and there are a lot of baseball people who want these jobs.”

Mackanin wanted to keep the job he got after Ryne Sandberg abruptly resigned in July 2015. But Klentak wanted a change. While Kentak never fully articulated why in a Friday news conference, Mackanin will become an Arizona-based special assistant to the GM.

Mackanin was asked if he had regrets for how he’s handled the club over the past 2 1/2 seasons.

“I always second-guess myself. You always make decisions and wonder if it’s the right decision,” Mackanin said. “The thing about in-game decisions is you have to make it based on so many variables. You have to make quick decisions and you have to be prepared for so many different things. Sometimes things come up that you overlook and you second-guess yourself.

“On the other hand, there are a lot of decisions that are made that a lot of people don’t understand, they don’t know what’s going on. They’re critical of it without knowing the reason.”

Mackanin's new contract will allow him to pursue other managerial jobs. His entire coaching staff will be free to seek other jobs as well. But Mackanin knows after first putting on a professional uniform in rookie ball as a 17-year-old with Wytheville in the Appalachian League in 1969, he may not do it again after Sunday.  

“After 49 years, it’s a long time to be in any industry,” Mackanin said. “Not a lot of people get that far.”

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.

Phillies lose Jerad Eickhoff for 6-8 weeks

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Phillies lose Jerad Eickhoff for 6-8 weeks

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies' pitching staff has suffered a setback.

Jerad Eickhoff, projected as a member of the season-opening starting rotation, has been shut down with a strained right lat muscle, the area behind his shoulder. He will open the season on the disabled list and be sidelined into May, based on the team's six- to eight-week timetable for treatment and recovery.

Eickhoff, 27, spent time on the disabled list with a similar injury last season. That injury was technically called an upper back strain.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Eickhoff injured himself on one of the final pitches he threw during his last start.

Eickhoff led the Phillies' staff in ERA (3.65) while making 33 starts in 2016. He was limited to 24 starts and had a 4.71 ERA last year while making two trips to the DL. His second trip to the DL, which ended his season, was for a nerve irritation in his right hand. Eickhoff is in Philadelphia being checked by doctors.

"We want to ensure, and we're pretty confident, that it's not related in any way to the (nerve) stuff he was dealing with last year," manager Gabe Kapler said.

Kapler added, "It's a mild lat strain. There might be a blessing in disguise here. We're always thinking about keeping guys healthy and strong and limiting their total innings count. Those are things that are always on our mind so it's possible the innings are limited on the front end and then in September, October, he's strong and healthy and prepared to go through a full season."

With Eickhoff down, the Phillies suddenly have some openings in their rotation. Jake Arrieta, who signed with the Phillies on Monday, believes he can be ready for the first week of the season, but nothing is official. Aaron Nola will be the opening day starter and Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are good bets to be in the rotation. The final spot could go to Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr. or Tom Eshelman.

It is not known whether the Phillies would pursue free agent Alex Cobb. On Monday, general manager Matt Klentak said his offseason moves were likely complete.