Matt Klentak

Phillies reassign Larry Bowa from coaching staff to front office

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Phillies reassign Larry Bowa from coaching staff to front office

Another member of the Phillies’ coaching staff is joining the front office. Larry Bowa on Friday was named senior adviser to general manager Matt Klentak. 

Former manager Pete Mackanin was also reassigned to the front office at the beginning of October. 

Bowa, 71, served as the Phillies’ bench coach the last four years, joining the staff after a stint as an analyst for MLB Network. 

As the Phillies search for a new manager, their coaches have been told they’re free to seek other opportunities. A new manager typically likes to bring in his own coaches, which could be bad news for Matt Stairs, Mickey Morandini, Juan Samuel and Bob McClure.

Bowa has spent 52 years in baseball as a player, manager, coach or analyst, with 33 of those years coming with the Phillies. 

“Larry Bowa is a genuine Phillies icon and he has made enormous contributions to this franchise during his 33 years in uniform,” Klentak said in a statement.  “I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Larry has accomplished throughout his baseball career and I am thrilled that he has agreed to continue to impact the organization in this new role.”

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.

MacPhail on Mackanin, new manager, pitch-framing, analytics, CBP renovations

MacPhail on Mackanin, new manager, pitch-framing, analytics, CBP renovations

Andy MacPhail sat in the Phillies' media room Tuesday and answered an assortment of questions pertaining to the dismissal of Pete Mackanin, the state of the rebuild, offseason plans and more.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from the 45-minute session:

2016 vs. 2017
"I think we did a reversal of what we did last year. We started out good (in 2016), we were playing .500 or better really up until June, got everybody excited early, and then we faltered at the end. This year we stunk in the beginning, we were decent in April and then we were bad for a long time, and then in the last 70 games, we were 35-35, playing .500. 

"Last year in the last 70 games we were 28-42, 14 games under .500. So there's an entirely different feel to the team. Our run differential last year was the worst in baseball at 186 runs. We've cut that in half to 92 and over the second half our run differential was zero, we were essentially a .500 club.

"We were the second youngest team in baseball. Effective [Aug. 31] when the rosters were still at 25, our average age of the roster was 27.03. Only the Padres were younger."

Phillies want to focus even more on analytics
"Our major-league analytics group is going to continue to grow. We've gone from one (person) to 14. I've been a career baseball guy, it's all I've known all my life. It is amazing to me what information can be generated now with the push of a button that I used to slave over for hours. It's incredible. They do the coding in that room and come up with stuff — some of which is proprietary and some of it is not — that to me is pretty remarkable. As we go along, we start to figure out things that say 'Gee, wouldn't it be nice to have that?' 

"All of it emanates from one thing, it emanates from ownership. They have come to us with one thing: seek competitive advantages. If you are not dedicating resources towards payroll, then put it towards finding every competitive advantage you can find and exercising your strength in a different way."

Front office unhappy with Phils catchers' pitch-framing
Specifically, MacPhail mentioned that the Phillies want to use analytics more to help correct an organization-wide problem with catcher framing.

"We don't think as an organization that our catchers' framing is very good. We think we are well-below-average. There are certain technologies that will help you instruct, teach, measure how well someone does that. We need to acquire those technologies to ensure that's an area that gets improved. We think that's an area that needs improvement, significantly. It's a hard thing. You want to take as much subjectivity out of it as you can. The player will likely learn better if he can see tangible results of things he does. Maybe this pitch you took out of the strike zone, maybe you stole one here. It's an ever-evolving thing. 

"There were stories written about (Jonathan) Lucroy, who went from being one of the very best framers one year to one of the very worst the next year. Well, that makes me suspicious. How does a guy go from one of the best to one of the worst overnight? It's something that we continually have to evaluate, keep our eyes on. But it's definitely an area of interest for the organization."

MacPhail told Klentak the Mackanin dismissal would confuse people
"Obviously, I talked to Matt when he came to me and talked about where he was. I probably spent more time with Matt talking to him about sort of the ramifications of his decision as anything. I told him that this is going to confuse people. You just extended the guy when we stunk four months ago and now we're getting better and you make a change. You're going to have to explain that. I also told him the media is going to be surprised by some of this. And my experience would tell me that media does not like to be surprised. They get pretty angry when they get surprised. Just make sure you're ready for that. 

"We also talked about — and you guys have already written it — that the GM only gets so many managers. If you make this move, you're going to increase the scrutiny on yourself. Are you prepared for that? He understood. He's unafraid. He feels like it was the appropriate time. 

"That was not an easy thing for Matt to do. He knew it was the young guy reassigning the old guy ... he understood that had he felt that way and not taken action, he essentially would not have been doing what his job requires him to do."

Remember when Chase Utley yelled at Bob McClure in Baltimore?
"Speaking for myself personally, just my own view, I always expected when we extended Pete that we were eventually going to pass the baton to another manager. Pete took over when the manager before (Ryne Sandberg) quit. The team hadn't really fully committed to a rebuild. They were half-committed. They hadn't gone all the way yet. Pete was in a tough spot. You think about it, and you'd just come off that awful game in Baltimore. You had Utley yelling at McClure and (Jeff) Francoeur pitching. It was pretty bad. Pete has taken us from that point to this point. He's taken us from A to B. If Matt thinks that, OK, I'm at this point, now to get to here, I need a different voice, that's up to Matt and I support his decision. He understands the consequences.

The timetable for naming a new manager
"I think ideally before you get to the GM meetings (early November) you'd like to have your manager in place. To help you kick off the sort of the official acquisition season. You want his input and you want him to be part of that."

Renovations coming to Citizens Bank Park
"We are the oldest park in the National League East, which is a bit of a surprise. So we plan on redoing the field next year. We're going to put in a new PA system. We're going to add new lighting. And then we're going to explore and add different security enhancements, which unfortunately at this day in age are required of us. ...
 
"Upgrades to the fan experience at Citizens Bank Park are essential. We think we have some very exciting things on the horizon. I can't be as detailed as I'd like to be because we haven't secured the necessary government approvals in some cases to do all the things we want. But while our payroll is not at an accustomed level that we've had in the past, then this is the time to make investments in the ballpark and in the fan experience and we hope to be, we're certainly going to do some of that for '18 and some of it in '19."