Pete Mackanin signs 2-year deal with club option in 2019

Pete Mackanin signs 2-year deal with club option in 2019

Updated: 7:40 p.m.

For the second straight year, the Phillies increased their commitment to manager Pete Mackanin, signing him to a new contract Thursday.

Mackanin's contract now runs through 2018 with a club option for 2019. His previous extension, signed last March, took him through the end of 2017 with a 2018 club option.

"I am very pleased with the contributions Pete has made and the job that he has done as the manager of this club," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday at a press conference. "I think he's grown a lot in the role. And really, whether it's his interactions with the players, his interactions with the media, his interactions with fans, whether we're on a winning streak or a losing streak, I think he has clearly solidified that he is the leader of this club."

Mackanin is in his second full season as the Phillies' manager after taking over for Ryne Sandberg on June 26, 2015. His record with the Phils is 121-161 (.429).

The Phillies like the way Mackanin communicates with his players.

"I want them to be accountable and I make sure they're accountable. Back in the old days, it was, 'I'm the manager, that's why you're not playing, get out of my office.' Doesn't work anymore," Mackanin said. "I want the players to respect me and like playing for me. But at the same time, when I want them to be accountable and want them to do something they should or shouldn't be doing, I let them know about it. It's kind of a funny relationship, but it's the one I think I've nurtured and that's my style."

Klentak credited Mackanin with being instrumental in the growth of the team's young talent such as Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis and Aaron Altherr. Hernandez leads all major-league second basemen in runs scored (29) and is third in both average (.324) and on-base percentage (.378). Among shortstops, Galvis is tied for the league lead in RBIs with 21, while Altherr is riding an eight-game hitting streak and batting .351 with seven homers, 21 RBIs and a .435 on-base percentage in 25 games. All three have also played strong defense.

"If you look at a few examples, Cesar Hernandez had sort of a rocky road as he first entered the big leagues," Klentak said. "Through the patience and the work put into it by Pete and Pete's staff, we're now seeing Cesar Hernandez establish himself as one of the better all-around second baseman in baseball.

"These guys have shown patience in continuing to work with Freddy Galvis and now he's one of the main leaders on our club. Pete has continued to try to find ways to get Aaron Altherr in the lineup and now we're starting to see Aaron Altherr take off and become one of the better players in all of baseball.

"That's a big part of it — Pete's ability and our staff's ability to continue to work with those players, to help them grow, help them improve, to understand that there's going to be growing pains with young players."

Mackanin is also savvy with the media, which doesn't hurt.

"We can see progress in what's happening right now," Klentak said. "I can see it, Pete can see it, we all see it — it's happening before our very eyes. Obviously it has not reflected in our win-loss record, but we can see the progress happening. That's why we're making this decision."

The timing of the extension is interesting as it comes a day after reliever Joaquin Benoit criticized the way the Phillies' staff has used its struggling bullpen (see story).

Klentak discussed the topic on Thursday, while Mackanin said he addressed it with Benoit.

"I told him, I said, 'Look it, when a team's going through a losing streak I don't expect everybody to be happy,'" Mackanin said (see story). "In fact, I expect everybody to be frustrated — from the players to the coaches to myself, nobody's happy. So I don't have an issue with that. I spoke to him and it's done with, it's all over."

CSNPhilly.com's Jordan Hall contributed to this story.

Best of MLB: Solo homers power Cubs to win over Giants

Best of MLB: Solo homers power Cubs to win over Giants

CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist hit solo homers, spot starter Eddie Butler pitched five effective innings and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 5-1 on Thursday for their third straight win.

Mike Montgomery followed with four scoreless innings and allowed one hit in his first save.

Heyward went deep for the second time in three games and Zobrist added two singles as the Cubs took three of four games in a set with the Giants and finished a homestand at 7-2 (see full recap).

Cruz blast helps Mariners top Nationals
WASHINGTON -- Nelson Cruz greeted reliever Jacob Turner with a go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 Thursday to stop a five-game losing streak.

Gio Gonzalez took a 2-0 lead into the sixth, when Jean Segura singled leading off and Guillermo Heredia took a called third strike. That prompted Seattle manager Scott Servais to complain from the dugout, which led to his ejection by plate umpire Adam Hamari.

Robinson Cano singled, and Washington manager Dusty Baker brought in Turner (2-3), despite Cruz having just one hit in 15 at-bats against Gonzalez. Cruz drove a belt-high slider over the fence in left-center for his 12th homer this season and a 3-2 lead. Cruz leads the AL with 40 RBIs.

Cano added an RBI single off Turner in the seventh. Seattle scored multiple runs for the first time since May 18 (see full recap).

Andriese, Rasmus help Rays blank Angels
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Matt Andriese allowed six hits over eight innings, Colby Rasmus drove in four runs and the Tampa Bay Rays salvaged a split of a four-game series with Los Angeles by beating the Angels 4-0 on Thursday.

Andriese (5-1) improved to 4-0 over his last five starts, holding the Angels to 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Los Angeles threatened in five innings against the right-hander.

Rasmus had a pair of key two-out hits with the bases loaded: a two-run single in the first and a fifth-inning double that made it 4-0.

Tommy Hunter got three outs to complete a six-hitter (see full recap).

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph is making the Phillies' situation at first base quite tricky.

Joseph on Thursday continued building on his red-hot month of May by going 2 for 5 with a game-tying homer in the seventh and a walk-off RBI single in the 11th inning of the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's hit .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

That'll hold off the eye-popping production of Rhys Hoskins for now (see Future Phillies Report).

Extending it further, Joseph has played 148 career games with 499 plate appearances in the majors. That's just a bit less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. He's provided above-average offensive production from first base.

Most Phillies fans know Joseph's story — big-time catching prospect acquired from the Giants in the 2012 Hunter Pence trade, series of concussions, position switch, hot start to 2016 at Triple A, promotion, production.

It was a long, winding road for Joseph, and when he was asked Thursday if he expected to be this solid 500 plate appearances into his major-league career, he brought up health.

"My goals were to be healthy, to be able to play in 162 games and that's all I really want to be able to do," Joseph said. "That's something I haven't been able to do in my career and it's something that I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to the challenge to go through the mental challenge and the physical challenge and I'd say that's my No. 1 goal, that's my only goal. Because if I'm able to stay healthy and stay on the field then I'm able to enjoy this great game and getting to share it with my teammates."

As for the May adjustments, Joseph said the standard things about communicating with hitting coach Matt Stairs, working in the cage and staying consistent with his approach. His timing wasn't there in April but it's certainly been there in May.

"There's no telling what clicks in a guy, it's just a matter of making a minor adjustment sometimes, possibly getting better pitches to hit," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's no telling what it is, but he just looks a lot more comfortable at the plate."

Bullpen bouncing back
It's been completely overshadowed by the Phillies' recent skid but the bullpen has pitched very well of late. The unit that was overworked and criticized in April has combined to allow just two earned runs in its last 22 2/3 innings. On Thursday, six Phillies relievers — Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez — pitched six scoreless innings.

Neshek made the play of the day, diving and landing on his head to snag a pop-up bunt attempt before turning and firing to first base for the double play.

"I said early on that I think it's one of our strengths," Mackanin said of the bullpen. "And after today you can see why I have a lot of confidence in them."

Neshek, who has pitched in the postseason for four different teams, said Thursday that he thinks this is one of the best bullpens he's ever been around. It's not lip service, either. The unit was terrible in April, there's no getting around that. But some of that really did have to do with the overuse. Setup men were entering in the sixth inning. Opportunities for holds and saves were few and far between. Roles were not defined.

Stuff-wise, repertoire-wise, there is a lot to like about the Phillies' bullpen. Neris, Benoit and Neshek all offer vastly different looks and have track records of success.

While Neshek didn't totally endorse Benoit's comments from a few weeks ago that everything would settle down once the relievers knew specifically which inning they'd pitch, he did say that he too feels most comfortable coming in during a hold opportunity.

"I think my numbers show that I'm best in those situations, coming into a hold opportunity when we're ahead," Neshek said. "We haven't had much of those lately."

The horrendous start to the season for the Phillies' relievers will skew their stats all season long, but it's nice to see that at least one aspect of this team is starting to get into a groove.