New Phils' boss tries to stay positive

  • The Phillies had baseball's worst record last season at 63-99.
  • Pete Mackanin is beginning his 47th year in pro baseball, but his first full season as a major league manager.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Pete Mackanin's 47th year in professional baseball is his first as a major league manager. He can expect some heavy lifting.

Mackanin was promoted from interim to full-time manager of the Phillies in September. His team had baseball's worst record last season (63-99), and over the winter promising closer Ken Giles was traded to Houston.

But following the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers on Thursday, Mackanin was far from gloom and doom.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Charlie Morton, left, and catcher Carlos Ruiz talk during a spring training baseball workout Thursday in Clearwater, Florida.

"I'm the manager of the team and I want to stay positive," he said. "I think we're going to do a lot better than people think we are. If we can get our starters into the fifth and sixth inning on a consistent basis, then automatically we're going to be an improved team."

Mackanin became interim manager last June when Ryne Sandberg quit following a tumultuous road trip through New York and Baltimore. The roster changed quickly, with veterans Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere, Jake Diekman and Chase Utley all traded within a three-week span.

Since then, Cliff Lee and Jimmy Rollins among others also moved on. What's left is a spring training camp mostly populated by unproven big leaguers and unready prospects. The exceptions are Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, both likely in their final seasons with Philadelphia.

But Mackanin looks at some of the young players who played regularly last year — like middle infielders Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez — and finds reason for hope.

"They've gotten an opportunity and they feel like they're on their way," Mackanin said. "And then the young prospects that we have, that adds excitement and energy, they're knocking on the door and they're pushing the other guys."

Like most of the roster, the pitching staff is a work in progress. The team added veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton to complement a rotation that includes youngsters Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff. Also signed was long-time Arizona reliever David Hernandez.

The team lost 99 games last season despite having Hamels and Papelbon for four months and Giles for the season's entirety. Subtract Hamels' 20 starts with the team and the Phillies starting rotation had a 5.50 ERA last season.

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"As I've always said, you're auditioning all the time," Mackanin said. "You don't take anything for granted. You have to earn the job. I don't care what you did last year, it's basically what have you done for me lately. The players sense that. They know there are jobs available, especially in the pitching department.

"So I think everybody is real eager to show what they can do. We have a lot of new faces, a lot of guys who have been other places and have had success. I think they feel like they have an opportunity to show that they're not fading away, that they're ready to make their mark and get back on track."

Notes: Top prospect J.P. Crawford is among the early arrivals. Position players do not have to report until Monday. Ryan Howard isn't in camp yet. . Mackanin is not ready to name an opening day starter in a camp with few obvious choices. Veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton are options, along with Aaron Nola. . Veteran starter Matt Harrison saw a back specialist this week and is not expected in camp this spring, general manager Matt Klentak said. Harrison has made just nine starts since 2012 after a series of back operations. . Right-handed pitcher Yoervis Medina has yet to report to camp because of visa issues following a trade this month with the Pittsburgh Pirates.