John Mallee

Phillies set to interview Nationals assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon

Phillies set to interview Nationals assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon

A candidate for the Phillies’ open hitting coach position has emerged.

According to baseball sources, the Phillies have received permission from the Washington Nationals to interview Joe Dillon for the job.

Dillon has served as the Nationals assistant hitting coach under Kevin Long for the last two seasons. Long had previously been New York Yankees hitting coach under Joe Girardi. Girardi was hired by the Phillies as manager last month and remains close to Long.

The Phillies’ hitting coach position has been in flux for the past few months. John Mallee, who came aboard with manager Gabe Kapler before the 2018 season, was fired in July and replaced by Charlie Manuel on an interim basis. Manuel is returning to his role as a club adviser and Mallee is now assistant hitting coach with the Los Angeles Angels.

A source said that Dillon would interview with the Phillies “soon.” Dillon had been busy throughout the month of October as the Nationals rolled through the postseason and won the World Series.

Dillon, 44, played in the majors with the Marlins, Brewers and Rays. He has gained recognition around the game for marrying new-age science with old-school principles in coaching hitters. Long, in fact, has called Dillon “the best assistant hitting coach in the baseball.” Anyone of that distinction, coming off a World Series title, would seem to be in line for advancement in the game. Maybe it will come with the Phillies. Stay tuned.

In other coaching matters, Juan Castro will take over as the team’s infield coach. Castro is a former utility infielder with the Phillies and has worked in player development for the club. He will replace Bobby Dickerson, who moved on to become San Diego’s bench coach.

Dillon is the only publicly confirmed candidate for the hitting coach job. Once a hitting coach is hired, Girardi’s staff will be complete. Bryan Price was previously hired as pitching coach.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies

Could J.T. Realmuto's changed approach benefit other key Phillies hitters?

Could J.T. Realmuto's changed approach benefit other key Phillies hitters?

The Phillies did not come out swinging Tuesday night, literally or figuratively. Bryce Harper's 11-pitch plate appearance to begin the bottom of the first ended with a strikeout looking. Same for Rhys Hoskins one batter later. 

It took 35 pitches before the Phillies finally put a ball in play.

When Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana exited after six innings, he did so with a career-high 14 strikeouts and the game tied.

Then J.T. Realmuto's two-out RBI double in the seventh inning did a few things. 

It prevented another bad, bad Phillies loss. They struck out 15 times as a team Tuesday night against non-strikeout pitchers, which would have stuck out in a loss.

It also helped ease the frustration of a weird day at the ballpark. Hitting coach John Mallee was fired Tuesday morning. For six innings, this was definitely one of those games that would have prompted fans to rush to social media with the "Fire Mallee" pleas that had become all too common in recent weeks.

Instead, the Phillies won, 4-2, a night before Charlie Manuel arrived to assume the role of hitting coach for the final 43 games (see story). They got a quality start from Jason Vargas, solid setup work from Blake Parker and Mike Morin and a save from Hector Neris (see observations).

The pitching was good enough, which the Phillies have been able to say in about only 35 games all season. The pitching staff is what it is. The Phillies know as much. To win, they need to score runs. Four runs won't win you every game but it will win you many, as evidenced by the Phillies' 53-16 record when reaching that threshold.

"We need contributions from every corner of the organization and every portion of our major-league team," manager Gabe Kapler said. "At the same time, if we are going to make the kind of run that we think we're capable of, it's going to be because we score runs.

"The strength of our team right now is our offense. It hasn't been where it's needed to be thus far this season. But we certainly have the talent and guys with the track record and a bench that's deeper now than it has been."

Harper and Hoskins did not have good nights atop the Phillies' order. They were a combined 0 for 8 with six strikeouts, four looking. Realmuto and Jean Segura have been OK batting third and fourth but one wonders how much longer Kapler will go with Harper and Hoskins batting first and second. 

Hoskins, who wore a Golden Sombrero Tuesday night, is in a rut right now in which he can't buy a knock. Over his last 25 games, he has made an out in 80 of 95 at-bats and struck out 28 times.

Realmuto, on the other hand, has provided the offense lately Phillies fans were expecting. Since June 29, he has hit .310 with an .889 OPS. He has 17 extra-base hits in 145 plate appearances. Realmuto finds himself on pace to surpass his career high of 21 home runs, and if the season ended today he'd have the second-highest OPS of his career.

"My approach has changed a little bit just trying to be early in the count, be earlier, see the ball better and not chase as much," Realmuto said.

"I think what we see with J.T. is really good timing right now," Kapler added. "He has a pretty pronounced leg kick. We see the knee coming up at the right time kind of when the pitcher's hands break and it's not something he is necessarily thinking about, but it's something we see in the dugout. Everything is happening on time, so he has a chance to see the ball. 

"You're seeing him take pitches with more confidence, pitches that are just off the plate. He is getting into hitter's counts. We saw that tonight. He really looked comfortable at the plate and has been looking comfortable at the plate for some time."

The organization's hope is that when Manuel arrives and has a chance to be Charlie, a few more guys will feel comfortable at the plate, notably Hoskins. The Phillies need more than one or two hitters per night seeing the ball well. 

If not, the only way to win will be with the kind of individual heroics Realmuto provided Tuesday. That happens only occasionally, and the Phillies will need to win more than occasionally to make a real wild-card push.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Charlie Manuel is back to do what he does best: Break tension and build confidence — can it save a team?

Charlie Manuel is back to do what he does best: Break tension and build confidence — can it save a team?

Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, the day after the Phillies got just three hits in a loss to the Giants, and three days after they were one-hit by the Giants, Gabe Kapler offered that his team’s hitters that day would alter their approach at the plate.

“We’re going into the game with the approach of we’re not providing much information today,” Kapler said. “We’re just going to be athletes. We’re going to go out there and let our natural athleticism take over. We know that when we’re loose and relaxed, we produce our best swings, so it’s about being easy. With runners in scoring position, or in other big situations, nobody is trying to take anyone deep. Simple approach to take the pressure off.”

Loose. Relaxed. Clear minded. Tension free.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to Charlie Manuel talk hitting, you’ve heard all of these buzz words.

Now, you’re going to be hearing more of them.

And so are Phillies hitters.

The 75-year-old batting cage rat is the Phillies new hitting coach. The team turned to him Tuesday in a desperate attempt to save a season of high expectations, a desperate attempt to end a seven-year playoff drought. The Phillies have not played postseason ball since Manuel’s 102-win 2011 team had a bad week at the worst possible time and was eliminated in the division series. Back then Manuel was in the midst of the most successful run ever enjoyed by a Phillies skipper — five division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series title. His legacy as the most successful skipper in Phillies history is secure. Now, he’s trying to do the organization a solid by helping it get to a place it hasn’t gotten to since he was in charge.

Manuel is not leaving his role as a front office adviser to run the ballclub. That’s Gabe Kapler’s job, but how long it remains Gabe Kapler’s job — i.e., will he return next season? — could come down to how successful Manuel is at waking up this slumbering offense over the final 43 games of the season. (It would help if Big Chuck could find three starting pitchers who can go seven innings, but that’s not his job and it’s too late for that anyway. At least for now. But next season — hoo boy.)

Slumbering is a fitting word to describe the Phillies’ offense. Pressing might be a better word. Certainly it seems as if these guys are putting way too much pressure on themselves and that’s no way to hit.

Rhys Hoskins, who takes seriously his role as a team leader, is coming off a 2-for-24 road trip. He has one RBI this month. He wants to be a great Phillie, on and off the field. There are nights when you can almost see him turning the bat handle into saw dust, trying to do too much, trying to please too many.

Bryce Harper has looked that way all season as he tries to hit 800-foot home runs when paint scrapers, or line drives in the gap, will do.

J.T. Realmuto has also looked that way all season as he plays to show a team and a city he was worth a high price in prospects.  

This is all right in Manuel’s wheelhouse. Pressing hitters. Hitters who lose their natural reactive skill because they think too much. Hitters lacking confidence.

This is Manuel’s specialty. He’s not going to come in and rip apart swings. He’s going to come in and preach what he always has — get a good ball to hit, catch it out front, be ready to hit, be aggressive in the zone. He’s going to tell his hitters that home runs are nice, that home runs are great — no one loves them more than Chuck — but home runs are things that happen when you get a good ball to hit, execute a good swing and catch the ball out front. Manuel will keep it simple for these guys — just like Kapler was saying Sunday in San Francisco when the heat was getting turned up.

Manuel’s simple approach is embodied in something he likes to say: If you’re not hitting .300, you have a problem. He knows that not everybody is capable of hitting .300. But that should be the goal of every hitter. And if you’re strong and have some pop and catch that good ball to hit well, that well-struck fly ball just might end up over the fence for a home run. And when you hit that home run, or get that runner home, you’ll hear it from Manuel in a reassuring tone that will build confidence. That’s another Manuel strength — building confidence, and confidence is baseball’s magic potion.

Manuel has some work to do. The Phillies offense has been inconsistent all season. Since the All-Star break, the offense has been particularly bad. Entering Tuesday, it ranked 27th in the majors in runs, 27th in batting average, 26th in OPS and 28th in extra-base hits since the break.

And it ranked 28th in the majors with a .211 batting average with runners in scoring position since the break.

That’s a sign of a pressing team.

Charlie Manuel has always said a hitter needs to be tension-free and confident to succeed.

He’s coming in to work on those intangibles.

And if he can work his magic, the results should be better and maybe, just maybe, the Phillies can live to breathe a little October air for the first time since he was skipper.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies