Sources: Jorge Velandia emerges as strong candidate for Phillies manager job

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Sources: Jorge Velandia emerges as strong candidate for Phillies manager job

Phillies front-office executive Jorge Velandia has emerged as a strong candidate for the team's vacant manager's job.

Velandia had a lengthy interview with general manager Matt Klentak on Wednesday, according to sources. He is the second known candidate to interview for the job, joining Juan Samuel, a member of the team's coaching staff since 2013.

Velandia, 42, has spent the past eight seasons in a variety of player-development, player-personnel, coaching and advisory roles in the Phillies organization. He spent time on the big-league coaching staff in 2015. He rose to the position of special assistant to Klentak a year ago.

A former utility infielder who played in the majors with the Padres, Athletics, Mets, Rays, Blue Jays and Indians, Velandia is a native of Venezuela, where he has served as general manager of the La Guaira club in the Venezuelan winter league for six years. That is the same club that produced talented but enigmatic centerfielder Odubel Herrera, the only Phillie on a long-term contract.

The Phillies manager's job opened when Klentak reassigned Pete Mackanin, 66, to the front office last month. At the time, Klentak indicated that he was seeking a young perspective and a new style in the skipper's office. Klentak, 37, is one of a growing number of young, analytically driven general managers in the game, and he appears to want a field manager of his generation that both he and a young roster can grow with as the team moves closer to contending.

Velandia is going to get a long, serious look for this job. Klentak has a very small band of advisers in the organization and while Velandia might not be on the first ring, he's firmly on the second ring. The two have bonded in Klentak's first two years on the job and Velandia has shown a willingness to learn and embrace the analytic side of the game that Phillies ownership has demanded and the front office has built. Velandia has relationships with members of the Phillies' analytics team. His chemistry with Klentak, others in the front office and the analytics team should not be underestimated because game-day strategy is no longer limited to what happens in the dugout during nine innings. Managers are now seen as extensions of the front office, the final button-pusher in a daily team effort that extends to the executive level.

Klentak has promised a thorough search for his manager. In addition to Samuel, Triple A manager Dusty Wathan is a candidate. Samuel also interviewed for the position when Mackanin was hired in September 2015.

While there is no firm timetable for the hiring of a manager, club officials have said they'd like to have someone in place by the start of the general managers meetings during the second week of November. Those meetings generally signal the start of the offseason transaction season.

Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS

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Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS


FORT MYERS, Fla. — However the Phillies’ bench shapes up — whether it features four or five men during the first week of the regular season — one thing is a must:

“We need somebody who can play shortstop, absolutely,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

“We need someone who can play multiple positions in the infield on our bench and someone who can play multiple positions in our outfield on the bench. That’s a necessity.”

Kapler has taken a long look at Roman Quinn at shortstop the last two days. Quinn played four innings there Sunday against the Twins. He was there for the entire game Monday against the Red Sox.

Quinn grew up playing shortstop and outfield. He broke into pro ball as a shortstop but moved to center field during the 2014 season, when it became clear that J.P. Crawford was the shortstop of the future. Now, Quinn is relearning the shortstop position so he can potentially serve as a utility man on the Phillies’ bench. He’d be an intriguing talent to have on the bench because he’s a switch-hitter with electrifying speed.

As a shortstop, the Phillies won’t be looking for Quinn to be a Gold Glover. They need someone to make the play on an emergency or fill-in basis. Quinn made three plays in Monday’s game. He short-hopped one throw and Carlos Santana made the pick. He knocked down one ball, recovered and made a strong throw for an out. He made a nice play on a groundball while shifted behind second. It wasn't the prettiest exhibition, but it got the job done.

“The more I play there, the more comfortable I’m getting,” Quinn said. “I’m enjoying it. I’d like to think I can play any position. It’s fun coming in from center field and playing shortstop. I love it.”

Quinn turns 25 in May. Some schools of thought might come down against carrying a player of his potential as a reserve. Certainly, more time in Triple A would not hurt him, especially after missing more than three months with an elbow injury last year. But the Phillies are open to the possibility of carrying Quinn. His shortstop audition the last two days has made that clear.

“Everyday reps at the minor-league level are incredibly valuable,” Kapler said. “However, because a guy is on the bench at the major-league level doesn’t mean his development is stunted. He’s getting a different kind of experience and a really valuable experience.”

Tom Eshelman was charged with four runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Phils squandered a three-run lead and lost, 6-5, to Boston.

Aaron Altherr drove in four runs. He belted a three-run homer in the fifth inning against Boston ace Chris Sale. Cesar Hernandez grinded out a long at-bat before striking out and Santana and Rhys Hoskins both walked before the home run.

“When you have a guy like Sale, making him work is critical,” Kapler said. “Cesar’s punchout was an incredible at-bat. Santana and Hoskins made him work. [Sale] gets a little fatigued and Altherr gets a pitch to whack. So Altherr hitting a home run doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens as a result of team baseball.”

Jake Arrieta is ready for game action; Mark Leiter Jr. is hurting

Jake Arrieta is ready for game action; Mark Leiter Jr. is hurting

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Good news, bad news on the Phillies’ pitching front.

The good: Jake Arrieta will make his first Grapefruit League appearance of the spring when he gets the start Thursday against the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater.

Arrieta signed with the Phillies a week ago and threw a simulated game Saturday (see story). He will throw a side bullpen session Tuesday then be ready for Thursday’s start. It's still not clear when he will make his regular-season debut. Arrieta believes he will be ready to pitch during the first week of the season. Phillies management is taking a long-range view and will exercise caution in turning him loose. Either way, Arrieta projects to make 30 or more starts once he’s ready.

Now, the bad news:

Pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. headed to Philadelphia for tests on his right forearm. Leiter has been experiencing some tightness and soreness in the forearm, according to manager Gabe Kapler.

This is tough news for Leiter, who early in camp had impressed management with his performance and ability to pitch in a starting or relief role. Ten days before opening day, it’s likely that Leiter will have to open the season on the disabled list.

Starter Jerad Eickhoff will open the season on the DL with a right lat strain. It is not considered serious, but he is projected to be out into May.