John McLaren

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.

Phillies Notes: Hector Neris looks to become three-pitch guy in 2017

Phillies Notes: Hector Neris looks to become three-pitch guy in 2017

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Hector Neris racked up 102 strikeouts, the second-most ever by a Phillies reliever, during his breakout 2016 season.

The right-hander did it basically with a two-pitch mix — a power fastball and a darting splitter that manager Pete Mackanin likes to call “an invisible pitch.”

After last season, Neris reflected on his success, which included a 2.58 ERA over 80⅓ innings, the third-most among NL relievers.

Neris determined that he would need to diversify his pitch repertoire if he’s going to continue to have success.

So during winter ball in his native Dominican Republic, he dusted off his seldom-used slider and threw it more. He’s polishing it up in this camp and plans to use it in the upcoming World Baseball Classic and during the regular season.

“I think it’s something that can make me better,” Neris said. “I’ve never had the confidence in it that I had in my other pitches, but I’m working hard on it. It will give me a third option for the hitter to think about.”

Neris threw a slider 2.9 percent of the time in 2016, according to MLB Statcast. He threw more than 49 percent splitters and 46 percent fastballs.

“In the big leagues you have to respect the hitter,” Neris said. “The hitters know me now and they know I throw fastballs and splitters. I need to have that third pitch for them to respect. When I throw it, I want them to say, ‘What is that?’”

Neris’ splitter darts down and in to a right-hander hitter. The slider will break the other way.

Neris has talked about different grips on the pitch with guest spring-training instructor Larry Andersen, who threw a million sliders in his career.

“He threw some nasty ones today,” Andersen said after Tuesday’s workout. “The pitch will help him.”

McLaren to WBC
Bullpen coach John McLaren will leave camp on Wednesday and travel to Japan as Team China assembles for the World Baseball Classic. McLaren will manage that club. He also skippered the club in 2013.

Asked if he spoke more than seven words of Chinese, McLaren quipped, “That would be pushing it. I’m still trying to conquer English.”

Team China will provide a translator for McLaren, though there is a universal element to baseball communication.

“This is my third time going to the WBC,” McLaren said. “I love it.”

Almost game time
The Phillies will play their annual exhibition game against the University of Tampa on Thursday. The Phils are expected to play many of the young players that will make up their Triple A Lehigh Valley roster. Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., who pitched at Double A Reading last season, will come over from minor-league camp to make the start. Pitching coach Bob McClure said he expected to get several projected big-league relievers work in the game.

Alec Asher will start the Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees on Friday in Tampa and Adam Morgan will start Saturday’s games against the Yankees in Clearwater.