June 03, 2016
Pete Mackanin welcomed the usual throng of reporters into his office space at One Citizens Bank Way on Friday afternoon and figured he’d start talking before the questions came at him.
Because, really, the subject hasn’t changed.
“I left the postgame [press conference] last night and there wasn’t a whole lot of questions,” Mackanin said. “But it seems like it’s the same question. ‘What about the offense?’ And I’ve got nothing else to say. We have to start hitting, scoring runs.”
Even though Mackanin says “we,” he cannot physically jump into the batter’s box and get a hit or draw a walk, nor can hitting coach Steve Henderson, or first base coach Mickey Morandini, and down the line. Mackanin’s play on Friday, when the Phillies entered play with a season-high seven game losing streak, was to give two of his newest players on the roster a look for the second straight day: Cody Asche and Jimmy Paredes started in the two corner outfield spots that have been particularly troublesome in getting regular offensive production in 2016.
That outfield alignment, with Odubel Herrera in center, meant Tyler Goeddel was on the bench for the second straight night. Tyler Goeddel, who has hit .328 with a .391 OBP and three home runs in 17 starts since May 13.
“(Goeddel’s) fine,” Mackanin said. “I wanted Paredes to get some at-bats. And Asche is going to get some chances. Goeddel will be back in the lineup tomorrow. I didn't want to just give Paredes one game and then sit him. Because if he's going to help us as a starter or off the bench he's got to get some at-bats.”
And that’s where Mackanin is at, choosing between a journeyman utility player (Paredes) a Rule 5 pick who would probably be at Triple-A if he wasn’t a Rule 5 pick (Goeddel) and the defensive-first Peter Bourjos who was signed to basically replace Asche as one of the team’s regulars. It’s not necessarily a recipe for success, or the one anyone would choose themselves, but it’s where the Phillies are at as they await help from below.
“We just have to hold down the fort,” Mackanin said.
The good news for Phillies fans tired of seeing their team score two runs a game lately (and an MLB worst 3.09 RPG this season) is there actually is help in the form of outfielders not too far away from the big leagues.
Nick Williams, 22, has a .274/.316/.423 slash line with five home runs, seven doubles, 49 strikeouts and 11 walks through 46 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. After a slow first two weeks of the season, Williams has hit .299 with a .807 OPS in his last 35 games.
A step below Allentown are two players that have helped fuel Double-A Reading (36-18) and it’s Eastern League-leading offense. Dylan Cozens (.284/.357/.582) and Roman Quinn (.281/.355/.413) are both among the top 12 hitter in the league in total bases.
Cozens, who just turned 22 this week, actually leads the league in that department, and in home runs, with 14 in 52 games, too. We wrote about Cozens last month when he was on a roll, and, guess what, he’s on a roll again: three home runs and five doubles in his last nine games. It would be surprising if he wasn’t in Triple-A before the end of the month.
Quinn, a 2011 second round pick who turned 23 last month, is excelling in what he hopes is his first full healthy minor league season. He has three home runs, nine doubles, and four triples in 47 games and has gone 24-for-30 in stolen base attempts. Like Cozens, he’s also been especially hot lately: 12-for-27 with two home runs and four doubles in his last six games.
Go back and read those last four paragraphs. Now imagine you’re Pete Mackanin reading those four paragraphs.
“I get it, I understand,” Mackanin said. “I was in development for so many years that I know the fear is you take a guy, you move him too soon and if he fails, maybe you shouldn’t have moved him because now he loses confidence. … You have to be aware of the makeup of the kid because some of them it could kill them and some of them it will spur them on.”
First-year general manager Matt Klentak is also aware of both the current team’s offensive struggles and the growing talent his organization has on the farm. It’s a process.
But he also has people watching these players every day and monitoring their abilities and readiness. Could the Phillies potentially get some offensive help from Allentown or Reading before the All-Star break?
“I hadn't thought about it in those specific terms, but anything is possible,” Klentak said. “I don't think, being candid, we opened this season with the expectation that Tommy Joseph would be on our team within six weeks, but he forced the issue. We've got roughly six weeks until the All-Star break, it's conceivable that could happen. But we're not going to rush the development of the players that we believe they need, but if somebody puts in that position we'll be happy to promote them.”
And, until then, Mackanin tries to manipulate the names available to him on the current 25-man roster and put together what he believes is the best group of eight position players on the field. For the last two days, that’s meant giving a guy like Jimmy Paredes (1-for-5 with four strikeouts and a double in his very early Phillies career) a chance.
“We 'll see what he does tonight,” Mackanin said. “We’re starved for offense so I'm going to play guys that can hit. At least for the time being."
• Aaron Altherr, who underwent left wrist surgery in early March, has been taking light swings (dry swings, not batting practice) in Clearwater, Fla. “The original timetable is still the timetable,” Klentak said. “But everything, he’s sort of hit all the checkpoints and is doing well in his rehab.” The original timetable was 4-to-6 months. Given how tricky wrists can be, it wouldn’t seem plausible to expect Altherr back on a major league field until some time in August at the earliest.
• Dalier Hinojosa, placed on the disabled list with a right hand injury on April 30, was scheduled to throw a side session, according to Mackanin, but would still appear to at least a couple of weeks away from rejoining the Phillies.
• On this date in Phillies history nine years ago: Shane Victorino hit a walk-off home run on Shane Victorino Hula Figurine Day. The Phillies media relations department included late, Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas’s call in their pregame notes. Kalas says “No ka oi,” which in Hawaiian means, “the best.” It’s a good one: