By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
February 19, 2016, 1:30 P.M. EST
Pete Mackanin has spent nearly the last five decades involved with professional baseball, but he's never entered spring training as a manager until now.
It's a good thing he's willing to accept a challenge.
The Phillies finished with baseball's worst record last season (63-99), but not before Ryne Sandberg stepped down as manager in June. Mackanin was tagged with the interim title and watched as the organization gutted the roster of veterans prior to trade deadline.
Now with the interim tag removed, Mackanin faces the challenge of improving a club comprised almost entirely of young unproven talent and aging veterans looking to recapture past success.
Fangraphs projects the Phillies to finish with the worst mark in baseball at 66-96.
"I'm the manager of the team and I want to stay positive," Mackanin said on Thursday. "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."
The pitching staff, much like the rest of the roster, is in a state of disorder.
Veteran hurlers Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton were added over the winter along with Brett Oberholtzer and Vincent Velasquez. All four are expected to compete alongside youngsters Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff for spots in the rotation.
"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."
With 65 players in camp, Mackanin is all about positional competition. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, the two remaining links to the Phillies 2008 World Series team, have already been warned that nothing is guaranteed this spring.
"What have you done for me lately," Mackanin said. "That's how I'm approaching things. We can't look at what happened a long time ago, what have you done now?"
Day 1 Notes
Mackanin admitted the naming of an Opening Day starter will be an "in-house" decision, likely involving members of the front office. He also noted experience isn't a prerequisite for the honor, so Nola certainly is in play ... Top prospect J.P. Crawford is already in camp and spent some time in the cage ... Along with Crawford, Nick Williams and Darin Ruf are also in camp. Position players are not due to report until Monday with the first full-squad workout set for Tuesday.
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