Phillies

With touching sendoff, Phillies send Pete Mackanin out with a day he'll never forget

With touching sendoff, Phillies send Pete Mackanin out with a day he'll never forget

BOX SCORE

Lineup card in hand, Pete Mackanin began his final pregame walk to home plate as Phillies manager. A ripple of applause rose in the stands and swelled with every step Mackanin took. By the time he was done handing his lineup card to the umpires, the applause had become a standing ovation and it accompanied Mackanin all the way back to the dugout, where his players, without planning or coaxing, spilled out to salute him on his last day as the team's skipper.
 
"I almost started crying," the 66-year-old baseball lifer said when it was all over Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. "It was really special. It meant a lot to me. I looked at (bench coach Larry) Bowa and said, 'Is this for me?' He said, 'Yeah, tip your cap.' I didn't know what to do.
 
"My wife and son were in the stands in the second row and I couldn't look at them. I knew my wife would be crying. I didn't want to start crying myself."
 
Three days after being told he would not manage the club in 2018, Mackanin's team blew out the New York Mets, 11-0, in the season finale (see observations). The beginning and end of the game dripped with symbolism, from the touching sendoff of the outgoing manager to the eighth-inning, three-run, inside-the-park home run by Nick Williams, one of the exciting rookies that helped the growing team post a 37-38 record after the All-Star break.
 
"What a way to end that game with an inside-the-park home run," Mackanin said. "A great day for the Phillies, a great day for me. It was really special, probably one of the best days of my career.
 
"I can't remember all the run scoring, but it's been a special day for me. I want to thank the fans for coming out all season."
 
Mackanin took over as Phillies manager when Ryne Sandberg resigned in late June 2015 and recorded a 174-238 record as skipper. The rebuilding team endured a difficult first half this season, going 29-58 before the All-Star break, but played well under Mackanin down the stretch. The Phils went 16-13 in September.
 
For the season, the Phillies were 66-96 and finished third from the bottom in the majors. They will pick third in the draft next year.
 
The strong finish was not enough to save Mackanin's job. General manager Matt Klentak came aboard in October 2015 and inherited Mackanin as skipper. They had a good working relationship, but Klentak said Friday he wanted a new voice and new style to lead the team. Mackanin will stay on as a front-office adviser.
 
"We have a lot of good-looking young talent that we can be proud of and look forward to the future with," he said.
 
Some of that young talent was on display Sunday. Maikel Franco, who has yet to put his talent together in a consistent way, slugged a three-run home run, his 24th of the season and 49th over the last two. Odubel Herrera clubbed his 42nd double. Williams punctuated the day with his inside-the-park homer. Starting pitcher Nick Pivetta survived five walks and a hit batsman to register five scoreless innings and seven strikeouts in earning the win.
 
Williams finished with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 83 games. Rhys Hoskins sputtered to the finish line. He went just 7 for 52 (.135) with 19 strikeouts and 11 walks over the final two weeks, but, oh, those 18 home runs in his first month in the majors electrified the town and helped the Phillies do a lot of winning over the final weeks of the season.
 
"One thing I'm real happy about is the players never quit," Mackanin said. "They played hard and played with energy. I'm real proud of them for that.
 
"Some of the players who were with us from the beginning of the year showed improvement and with the emergence of a couple of the young guys, it gave us a spurt of energy and a more positive attitude. Looking forward, if you combine those two things then there's a lot of things we can feel good about going into next year."
 
Mackanin said he would keep the lineup card from his last game as Phillies skipper as a memento.
 
And, of course, that pregame salute from the fans and the players will always hold a special place in his heart.
 
"I'll remember it forever," he said.

Carlos Santana is ready to show Maikel Franco the way

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NBC Sports Philadelphia/AP Images

Carlos Santana is ready to show Maikel Franco the way

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The numbering is a little off in the Phillies’ spring training clubhouse. Usually lockers are assigned in numerical sequence, clockwise around the room. But this spring, No. 41 comes immediately after No. 7.

Why?

Because that’s the way Carlos Santana wanted it.

“I told the team that I wanted Maikel Franco right next to me,” the new first baseman said after his first workout with the club Saturday. “That's something that I wanted. I really like him. He's a special kid. I appreciate him a lot. And, not only him, the whole group is nice. But I really want to work with him and help him out.”

Santana, 31, and Franco, 25, are both natives of the Dominican Republic. They bonded this winter. After Santana signed with the Phillies in December, he worked out at the Phillies' academy in the DR with Franco.

It’s no secret this is a big year for Franco (see story). He needs to finally put together his potential or the team may look elsewhere – hello, Manny Machado – for its next third baseman.

Franco’s big area of need is Santana’s area of strength: Plate discipline. Santana walks almost as much as he strikes out. He has registered a career on-base percentage of .365 while averaging 24 homers over the last seven seasons. Franco has pop – he has hit 25 and 24 homers, respectively, the last two seasons – but his career on-base percentage is just .300 after a dip to .281 last season.

Santana has reached at least 100 walks twice in his career and at least 91 four other times. Franco had a career-best 41 walks last season.

Santana praised Victor Martinez for being a mentor to him early in his career. “That’s why I wear No. 41,” he said. Santana wants to be Franco’s Victor Martinez.

“We’re going to work together every single day,” Santana said. “We’re going to make sure he executes the plan he wants to follow. I know he’s a guy that’s very talented and he’s capable of a lot. So I’m going to be there. I’m committed to helping him. I’m going to be in the cage, hitting as many balls as possible. He already told me today that he wants to follow me everywhere he goes. If I have to go to the cage he’s going to go with me to hit some balls. He’s committed and I’m committed, too.”

The Phillies have baseball’s second-worst on-base percentage (.307, San Diego is .303) the last six seasons. The additions of Santana and J.P. Crawford to the lineup – and a full season of Rhys Hoskins, another selective hitter – should help the offense.

“When you have a guy (like Santana) in the middle of the lineup, grinding down the opposing pitcher – just imagine, you’re a pitcher on the other side and you’re delivering pitch after pitch that’s getting fouled off or a ball that is just off the corner and being taken, you get exhausted,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Guess who benefits from that? The next man up and the next man up and there’s this ripple effect. An exhausted starting pitcher or even an exhausted reliever is a really good thing for the Philadelphia Phillies.”

Santana signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies in December. He said the Phillies’ young core reminds him of the group of youngsters that his former team, the Cleveland Indians, brought to the majors in recent seasons.

Unlike a number of other free agents who are still jobless in this unusual year for free agents, Santana jumped relatively early at the Phillies’ offer. He said it was “shocking” that so many free agents remain unsigned.

“I know baseball is going through a difficult time right now, with all of the free agents,” Santana said. “But it worked out for me. I am happy. I can only speak for myself, and I am happy I did it the way I did it. It's very surprising because there are a lot of talented free agents out there. I thought it would be very different from what it's been.”

To prepare for the new season and the new team, Santana worked with a personal trainer in the Dominican Republic. In one of the drills, he was forced to push a car.

“It was a complete workout,” he said. “It wasn't only to get ready for preseason, it was also to get ready for the season and be successful during the season.

“It's a positive atmosphere here. I see a lot of young guys, very hungry and very eager to win. You can tell everyone is ready to go here.”

Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

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USA Today Images

Phillies add experienced candidate to their bullpen

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies on Saturday added to their stock of reliever candidates with the signing of veteran left-hander Fernando Abad to a minor-league contract. Abad will report to big-league camp and compete for a job on the 25-man roster.

The Phillies are likely to have an eight-man bullpen. The addition of Abad gives the Phillies four left-handed relief candidates. Adam Morgan, Hoby Milner and Zac Curtis are all on the 40-man roster. 

Morgan and Milner both shined in the second half of 2017. Morgan recorded a 1.69 ERA in 21 games over the final two months. He pitched 26 2/3 innings over that span, allowed just 16 hits and five runs, struck out 33 and walked six. Milner gave up just two runs in 21 2/3 innings over his last 27 games. He struck out 15 and managed to pitch around 12 walks. He was tough on lefty hitters (.159), but struggled against righties (.377). Curtis was a late-season waiver claim from Seattle. He pitched in just three games with the Phillies. 

Abad, 32, is an eight-year major-league veteran who has made stops in Houston, Washington, Oakland, Minnesota and Boston. He had a 3.30 ERA in 48 games with the Red Sox last season and lefties hit .227 off him.

From the right side, the Phillies have some bullpen depth with closer Hector Neris, veteran setup men Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos. Victor Arano, Ricardo Pinto, Yacksel Rios and Seranthony Dominquez are also on the 40-man roster. 

Dominguez hit 100 mph on the radar gun as a starter last season and is being converted to the bullpen. He is likely to open the season at Double A Reading, but “could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

The list of bullpen candidates also includes two veterans on minor-league contracts: Pedro Beato and Francisco Rodriguez. The latter is a 16-year veteran who has racked up 437 saves – fourth-most all-time – in his career. Rodriguez was released by the Tigers and Nationals last summer and is trying to make the Phillies as a non-roster invitee to big-league camp.