Like general manager Matt Klentak, manager Pete Mackanin admittedly was forced to perform some verbal gymnastics Friday night, with the Phillies in the process of finalizing the trades of utilityman Howie Kendrick and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.
Kendrick was simply held out of the lineup for a game against Atlanta, but Hellickson was a late scratch from his scheduled start.
Mackanin explained after the 10-3 victory that because of the rainy forecast, he didn’t want “to have to send (Hellickson) out there to pitch an inning or two and then have to yank him.” Klentak essentially said the same thing but did mention Monday’s trade deadline as well.
It is the kind of thing officials are forced to say, in case a deal falls through. Timing is everything, when it comes to revealing such news to the public.
Or, for that matter, the player involved.
Mackanin, a long-time minor-league manager, recalled before Saturday’s game against the Braves that in 1991 he had a shortstop at Nashville, Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate, named Freddie Benavides.
One night the club was playing at Columbus, and Mackanin received a call from the Reds’ farm director informing him that Benavides was going to be called up to the majors. Mackanin was instructed to pull him out of the game immediately, but there was a catch: He couldn’t tell Benavides why he was being yanked.
“You talk about somebody being (ticked) off at me,” Mackanin said. “He made an out his first at-bat, and I said, ‘Freddie, you’re done.’ He was mad the whole game at me. It’s a little unsettling.”
Mackanin said he received a phone call in the fifth inning of Friday’s game, informing him that the deal sending Kendrick to Washington for minor league pitcher McKenzie Mills had gone through.
With Hellickson, it was a bit trickier. His trade to Baltimore for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and minor league pitcher Garret Cleavinger wasn’t finalized until well after the game.
“I felt bad for him, because he was in a fog,” Mackanin said. “He didn’t know what to expect. If the trade didn’t go through last night, he was most likely going to pitch (Saturday). But you never know (when the call will come). It could be in the second inning.”
Turns out it was much later than that.
“It’s tougher for him,” Mackanin said. “It’s not as tough for me, obviously. I know Hellickson liked it here. He would like to stay here, I know that, but you accept whatever happens – bought, sold, traded, released, fired, waived.”
Comings and goings
Kim is not expected to report until Sunday. To fill Hellickson’s roster spot the Phillies selected the contract of RHP Pedro Beato from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The 30-year-old Beato was leading the International League with 27 saves. He last pitched in the majors for Atlanta, on June 18, 2014, in a game against the Phillies.
Mackanin also said that Jake Thompson will fill Hellickson’s spot in the rotation, at least for the time being. Thompson, a last-minute fill-in on Friday, worked five scoreless innings to pick up the victory.
“He pitched so well, he earned the chance to go back out there,” Mackanin said.
The most obvious options beyond that are RHP Zach Eflin and RHP Ben Lively, currently at Lehigh Valley. Lively took a line drive off his left knee in Friday’s outing against Durham, but according to Mackanin should be fine.
Lively, 1-4 with a 3.80 ERA in seven starts for the Phillies this season, is 7-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 13 starts for the IronPigs. Eflin is 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA in six Triple-A starts after going 0-3 with a 6.13 ERA for the parent club.
“I don’t know what we have in store for the future,” Mackanin said of Hellickson’s spot in the rotation, “but we’re going to continue doing this (with Thompson). And if Thompson pitches well again, then that might settle that for a while. But it is nice to have an opportunity to see a lot of different guys.”
Mackanin planned to use RHP Jesen Therrien, recalled from Lehigh Valley on Thursday night, in the ninth inning of Friday’s game. Then he thought better of it.
“I didn’t want him to face the middle of that lineup in his debut,” Mackanin said. “But I’m anxious to get him in there.”
The heart of the Atlanta order includes two tough lefty hitters, Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis.