Ryno gets his man, still needs pitching coach

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Ryno gets his man, still needs pitching coach

Ryne Sandberg has his 21st win as Phillies manager.

Sandberg wanted Larry Bowa as his bench coach.

He got him.

“We go back a long way,” Sandberg said after Bowa was officially named to the Phils’ coaching staff Tuesday. “I learned a lot from him as a young player. Now, as a young manager, with his experience and knowledge and information -- I think he'll be a terrific guy by my side. I have a high level of comfort with him, and he’s a top-notch baseball man.”

Bowa played 12 seasons at shortstop for the Phillies and was an All-Star and Gold Glover. He coached third base for the 1993 NL Champion Phils and managed the club from 2001 to 2004.

Bowa did not always leave the organization on good terms, but he always found his way back. This will be his fourth tour of duty with the club.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledged the messiness of Bowa’s previous departures.

“It was something we certainly thought about,” Amaro said. “But at the end of the day, Ryne's comfort level and Larry’s ability as a baseball person -- his knowledge of the game -- really overrode any ill feelings.

“For us, it's about getting the best people for Ryne to support him in the best way. Baseball seems to be cyclical. That's part of baseball. The fact of the matter is Larry’s an outstanding baseball man. This is not about Larry Bowa, this is about building a staff around and with Ryne that's going to be most effective. Clearly, Ryne felt that Larry was someone important to him.”

Bowa is known for being emotional and fiery. He speaks his mind and is not afraid to ruffle feathers. Some people love that about him. Others hate it.

Sandberg spoke to Bowa about his demeanor and does not think it will be a problem.

“I like people to be themselves,” Sandberg said. “But he's coming on board to support me and be one of the coaches. Everybody works together. I've had good conversations with him and he's totally on board with supporting me and doing his job.

“A little bit of energy and excitement is something he can bring to the ballclub in a positive way. We've had discussions about that and he's totally on board with what's going to be asked of him. I'm excited to have him around.”

Pete Mackanin was named third-base coach. He and Sandberg go back to the days when Sandberg played for the Chicago Cubs and Mackanin was a minor-league manager in that organization.

Mackanin was former manager Charlie Manuel’s bench coach from 2009-12. He was let go after the 2012 season and spent 2013 as a scout with the Yankees.

The Phillies still have at least one opening on their staff -- and it’s a big one. They need a pitching coach. Rich Dubee’s contract was not renewed after nine seasons. The Phils have not officially named a first-base coach or a bullpen coach, but holdovers Juan Samuel and Rod Nichols are both under consideration for those positions.

While Sandberg was clearly the driving force behind the hirings of Bowa and Mackanin, he will only be part of the decision-making process in selecting a pitching coach. Amaro said Nichols, a former minor-league pitching coach with the Phillies and the team’s bullpen coach in 2013, is a candidate for the job. But Amaro is clearly looking for other candidates, as well. He said an interview process would begin shortly.

“We're vetting out the best candidates,” Amaro said. “It's going to be a process. It's going to take some time, we think, because we're not really sure about all of the possible candidates who will be available. Clearly, there is a lot of movement going on around the league. We have done a great deal of research on possible candidates.”

Amaro said the next pitching coach does not have to have big-league experience, but it would be helpful.

“As far as prerequisites, we're just looking for the best guy,” Amaro said. “We're looking for someone who can both handle the staff and someone we feel has the right philosophy to move this club forward.”

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).