CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) - As the Phillies move into the third year of rebuilding, manager Pete Mackanin hopes to see Philadelphia finish with a winning record for the first time since a 102-victory season in 2011.
After back-to-back 89-loss seasons, the Phillies finished with a major league-high 99 defeats in 2015, then cut back to 91 losses last year. After the Phillies added veterans Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders, Mackanin expects Philadelphia to be competitive on a nightly basis.
“I would like to see us playing .500 going deeper into the season and, at that point, you never know what can happen,” Mackanin said following Tuesday’s initial spring training workout. “As a manager and as the captain of the ship, I’d like to go a little farther. I want to stay positive with my team because I think there’s a lot of room for improvement and just how well these guys improve and the guys that we have at the minor leagues, how well they improve to push the other guys, there’s no telling what can happen. But certainly, I think .500 is a relatively modest call for the leader of the team.”
As players shuffled through the hallways at newly renamed Spectrum Field, they were greeted by new signage at the 13-year-old ballpark.
The wall in the main lobby of the clubhouse floor is decorated with a large photo of Shane Victorino jumping onto the steep pile of players as the 2008 Phillies celebrated the World Series title. The hallway leading into the clubhouse honors championship teams, too, with photos of Ryan Howard and Tug McGraw raising their arms in celebration and both the 1980 and 2008 teams. Photos of pennant and division winners are on the walls, and the four man fields on the complex, named for Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts, have large photos of each respective player on a wall behind each backstop.
Philadelphia is without Howard and Carlos Ruiz, the last remaining members of the 2008 championship team.
“I think we’re in good shape,” Phillies president Andy MacPhail said of a team that has a bevy of major league-caliber prospects expected to start the year in Triple-A, a front office that’s kept the payroll flexible and an ownership group eager to spend. “Our expectation is that we’ll be better than we were a year ago and our expectation is that we’ll continue to introduce new talent onto our major league team not unlike we did last year.”
And finishing with a winning record?
“I’m focused not so much on a number,” MacPhail said. “I’d like to see improvement. That can demonstrate itself in a lot of ways. So I’m looking for improvement, measurable, meaningful improvement. That could just be in the number of players that look like they can be pieces for the future. I think that’s my goal for 2017.
“I actually was pretty happy with Pete and the things I was trying to get across from my level to both Pete and (general manager) Matt (Klentak). If you show energy, effort and enthusiasm, if you do those things and show them to our fans, they’re going to be a great deal more forgiving of what happens on the field. I think we got that by and large last year. I’m hoping we can maintain it and get it again this year.”
NOTES: Mackanin announced that RHP Jeanmar Gomez enters spring training as closer. Gomez struggled during the final six weeks of last season, and the Phillies added RHPs Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek during the offseason. … Buchholz previously spent his entire 10-year big league career with Boston, winning two World Series rings. “I think it energizes anybody,” Buchholz said. “There are expectations that are brought back to you, that sense of complacency, being in one spot for an extended period of time, that’s gone. And yeah, you want to perform for the new faces and show that you’re still good at your craft and good at what you do.” … The Phillies hold their first full-squad workout on Friday. Mackanin said all players except for his starting middle infielders, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez, already have checked into camp.
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