Mackanin demanding shift in approach at plate
PHILADELPHIA >> Sometime during spring training next season, and earlier than later, Pete Mackanin will insist upon what he long thought has been obvious.
Sometime, and regularly, he is going to order hitters to practice hitting the other way against a junk defense.
“Doesn’t it seem odd that nobody can hit against the shift?” the Phillies’ manager said Wednesday. “That seems odd. When I was playing, players handled the bat more. Everyone had a twostrike approach. Everyone was conscious of striking out. Now with the analytics, striking out is not a big thing.
“If you used to take a called third strike with a man in scoring position, you got fined. Now, it’s not important anymore. They have the same approach anymore with a 3-1 count as when it is 0-2. Guys don’t show a good two-strike approach. And the guys that do are good hitters.”
So, if the players won’t hit toward an abandoned side of the field on their own, Mackanin will effectively make it a job requirement.
“A (Dylan) Cozens, the left-handed hitters, part of their daily BP routine will be a round of hitting against the shift. It’s unbelievable when you see a big hole. I guarantee that when I was playing, you wouldn’t be able to shift like that, except against Dave Kingman or Willie Stargell, guys like that.”
Mackanin doesn’t know how long the shift will remain popular. But as long as it is, he’s determined to mount a counter-attack.
“I could make a name for myself,” he said. “Shifty Pete. It makes sense. You are down by four runs and you have Cozens hitting a line drive to left field. Let’s get on base.” • The Phillies chose to rest Vince Velasquez late in the season to preserve his arm. They will not do so with Jake Thompson.
“Right now,” Mackanin said, “he is scheduled to go until the end.”
In a 6-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday, Thompson showed why he will be so trusted, allowing two hits and striking out three in six innings. It was his fourth consecutive start with two or fewer earnedruns allowed.
“It’s very exciting for me,” said Thompson, of the Phillies’ commitment. “I worked extremely hard in the offseason to be able to be in that situation to finish an extra month, a month longer than the minor-league season. That was my goal. And hopefully I am able to finish out strong.”
He’ll have that opportunity.
“Thompson pitched pretty well,” Mackanin said. “He did a good job, giving us six good innings. The first inning he got out of the jam with a double play. That was huge. It set the tone.”
• With his second-inning home run, Freddy Galvis had homered in three of his last four games. Surprising? “I don’t get surprised about anything,” said the shortstop, who has 19 home runs. “But I think with 500 or 550 at-bats, if you take 20 good swings and you hit the ball good, especially in this park, then you can get homers. I mean, I feel good with that. I think I have to do better with my on-base percentage. I’d like to get my average up. But I think I am helping the team a little bit.”
• The Phillies’ 2017 schedule was released Wednesday. As they did this season, the Phils will open in Cincinnati, April 3. Their home opener will be Friday, April 7, against Washington at 3:05.
American League teams Seattle, Boston, Houston and Oakland will visit Citizens Bank Park.
NOTES >> The Phillies’ 15 hits Wednesday were their most in their last 39 games … Tommy Joseph hit his 19th home run. Not including pinch-hit and DH home runs, the Phils have 37 from Joseph and Ryan Howard, the major-league high for first basemen … Jerad Eickhoff (10-13, 3.73 ERA) will oppose right-hander Chad Kuhl (3-3, 4.09) when the four-game series with the Pirates ends Thursday night at 7:05 … The Marlins will be in for the weekend. Adam Morgan (2-10, 5.73) and righthander Tom Koehler (9-11, 3.97) will pitch Friday. Saturday night, it will be Jeremy Hellickson (11-9, 3.76) and right-hander Jose Urena (46, 4.89). Alec Asher (1-0, 1.46) and right-hander Andrew Cashner (5-11, 5.22) will pitch Sunday afternoon at 1:35 … Tyler Goeddel’s second-inning single ended an 0-for21 slump. He was 2-for-4 … Attendance was 16,112.
Maikel Franco takes a swing during Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.