Bob McClure

Phillies' coaching staff to become 'free agents' after season finale

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Phillies' coaching staff to become 'free agents' after season finale

Pete Mackanin will not manage the Phillies after Sunday's season finale, but he does have a future with the organization. He will become a front-office adviser next season.

His coaching staff does not have the same clarity.

General manager Matt Klentak told the team's coaches on Friday that they would become "free agents" after the season ended on Sunday.

"He thanked everybody and said everybody did a great job," bench coach Larry Bowa said. "He said whoever the [new] manager might be, we’re going to tell him about our staff and we think you did a good job and it’s going to be up to that manager to interview you. And he said, but if any of you guys want to make calls on Monday, you’re like free agents. And he thanked everybody."

In addition to Bowa, the staff includes pitching coach Bob McClure, assistant pitching coach Rick Kranitz, bullpen coach John McLaren, first base coach Mickey Morandini, third base coach Juan Samuel and hitting coach Matt Stairs, who was interviewed by Klentak and hired last fall.

Bowa, Samuel and Morandini all have deep Phillies roots and were fan favorites during their playing days. They remain so now. Stairs also has Phillies roots. He hit one of the biggest home runs in club history in the 2008 National League Championship Series and connected well with players in his first season on the coaching staff.

It's not clear who will be back in 2018. Maybe some will. Maybe none will.

Bowa, 71, expressed a desire to return to the organization that he has been in for 33 of his 52 years in pro ball.

"My No.1 priority is to stay in this organization," Bowa said. "That’s all I’m going to say about that. That’s No. 1. And if I’m not, then I’ll look for other stuff. But right now, I want to stay in this organization.

"This is my home. This is where I grew up. People recognize me as a Phillie. I just think that, I’m still, age-wise, what, 71, but you guys see me work every day. I’m relentless when it comes to that. So if they have something in mind, I’m going sit down and talk with them and see where it goes."

Would Bowa consider a position off the field?

"You know, I don’t know right now if it’s on or off, as long as it involves the Phillies," said Bowa, who does have broadcasting experience. "I'll do anything. I want to stay in this organization. That's all."

Bowa was surprised that Mackanin was let go.

"Pete did a great job," Bowa said. "He took a really young team – and then we obviously got reinforcements, some good young players – and if you take a look at what he did in the second half, I thought he did a great job. But nothing in baseball – you see everything in baseball – when you’re in baseball a long time, you’re not shocked by anything. Baseball is baseball. That’s the way it is. He’s just a good guy."

Mackanin has always had a great sense of humor. He kept that even as he informed the team on Friday afternoon that he would manage his last game Sunday.

"When Pete was talking, they were pretty somber," Bowa said. "But Pete had a way of loosening them up. His last comment, he says, 'I want you guys to play hard like you have been. If you win the last three games they might want to change their mind.'"

Bowa laughed.

"Typical Pete," he said.

And, yes, the Phillies did win Friday night (see observations). They are 36-37 since the All-Star break with two games remaining.

Pitching coach Bob McClure learned from the best, now passing it on to Phils' young pitchers

Pitching coach Bob McClure learned from the best, now passing it on to Phils' young pitchers

MILWAUKEE -- Bob McClure had plenty of work to do Saturday as the Phillies prepared to face the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 2 of a three-game set at Miller Park, but Philadelphia's pitching coach needed to take a brief break before Aaron Nola threw his first pitch to handle some personal business.

McClure crossed the field to join his 1982 Milwaukee Brewers teammates as they were honored on the 35th anniversary of that franchise's first — and to this date — only World Series appearance.

"A lot of the guys have been to the reunions in the past but I've either been playing or coaching so this is the first one I've been able to go to," McClure said. "It's very exciting to see these guys because a lot of them were my mentors."

McClure was 30 years old and already had seven seasons under his belt when the '82 campaign got underway. He started 26 games for the Brewers that season and went 12-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 34 overall appearances, moving to the bullpen later in the season after closer Rollie Fingers suffered an arm injury and the team acquired Don Sutton in August to bolster the rotation.

He was on the mound for the final outs of the regular season as Milwaukee beat the Orioles to clinch the AL East crown and made six postseason appearances in the ALCS and World Series, going 1-2 with a pair of saves and a 3.00 ERA in six innings of work.

McClure pitched 11 more seasons in the big leagues finishing with a 68-37 record and 3.81 ERA in 698 career appearances; success he attributes to the lessons he learned while playing alongside the likes of Fingers, Sutton and other talented pitchers like Mike Caldwell, Pete Vukovich and Jim Slaton.

"(Caldwell) took me under his wing," McClure said. "I'd watch him pitch — a guy who went 22-9 one year with 20-some complete games. I like I had better stuff, but he'd have better results. I'd talk to him about it. He'd rarely pitch above the knees. He could pitch you in, he could pitch you away, but he kept the ball down so well. It was really him teaching me how to command the baseball and the idea of command over velocity. I wasn't very good at it, but it helped me a lot. 

"Caldwell and Vukovich were two of the most competitive guys I'd ever see take the mound and (catcher) Ted Simmons was the overall mentor to all of us. He helped our team learn how to win. It sounds basic but when you have a group of talented guys who hadn't put it together, getting a guy like Ted Simmons kind of got everyone on the same page to play together and win games as a unit."

After his career came to an end in the 1993 season, McClure joined the coaching ranks, first with the Colorado Rockies from 1999-2005 then joined the Royals, who fired him after the 2011 season. 

He spent less than one season in the Red Sox organization and signed on as the Phillies' pitching coach in November 2013.

In Philadelphia, McClure has plenty of young talent to work with. Along with Nola, the franchise has high hopes for Jerad Eickhoff and Nick Pivetta. As McClure helps those players get their careers going, he tries to pass along the lessons he learned while in Milwaukee.

"It can be trying at times but I try to look back on how long it took me," McClure said. "It took me three years before I even started to realize who I was or what I could do. The most satisfying thing for me is seeing guys understand mentally where they're at, what they can do, what they can't do so they start to know themselves."

Phillies GM Klentak supports McClure, commitment to developing Velasquez as starter

Phillies GM Klentak supports McClure, commitment to developing Velasquez as starter

Phillies pitchers entered the start of a seven-game homestand on Monday night with the third-worst ERA in baseball, 4.78. Starting pitchers went more than six innings just 10 times in the first 41 games and the bullpen had given up 27 homers (second most in the majors) and blown nine saves (third most in the majors) over that span.

In other words, lack of effective pitching was a big reason the Phils entered Monday having lost 17 of their previous 21 games and sitting at 15-26 overall.

The Phillies' struggles on the mound have led to natural questions about pitching coach Bob McClure's performance and job status.

General manager Matt Klentak answered those questions with a strong endorsement of McClure before Monday night's game.

"Not on Bob, as far as I'm concerned," Klentak said when asked where the blame lay. "There can be organizational blame if we want to look at it that way. It's never about one person.

"One of the things that is so good about Bob, he is outstanding at working with young players and understanding the long game with young players — how we make sure we get enough rest and how we take care of them. He's been through this before. He was a key part in the development of a lot of the (Kansas City) Royals pitchers that led to the successes they've had over the last few years. So I'm absolutely not pointing any fingers at Bob.

"The topic of Bob's job security has not come up because it's not an issue."

Vince Velasquez might be the most talented of McClure's pupils, but he has struggled to turn his outstanding potential into success. In his second season in the Phillies' rotation, the hard-throwing righty has recorded a 5.98 ERA in eight starts and gotten through the sixth inning just three times (see story). His starts have frequently crashed as his pitch counts have risen and he has had to go through a lineup multiple times.

Velasquez's problems have led to almost nonstop speculation that he could end up at the back of a bullpen someday, but that's not happening any time soon, according to Klentak.

"For right now, we're committed to finding out what he can do in the rotation," Klentak said. "We've seen it. We've seen it in the early parts of last year and we've seen it in parts of this year where he has that 'ah-ha' moment where this guy is in the role that he's meant to be in. It hasn't been a clear path exactly. He's had some bumps along the way. But most pitchers do, especially when they get to the big leagues for as young as he was when he got here. We are very much committed to him being a starter. If over the course of time, we're forced to make an adjustment, then we will. We're not going to be rigid in our decision-making. But right now, we're not there."