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.