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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mackanin gives hitting coach the green light

By Jack McCaffery
PHILADELPHIA >> Pete Mackanin was looking at his lineup card Tuesday evening, essentially concluding that he would not immediately send it out for framing.
“It's funny,” the Phillies' manager said, before a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs. “Without (Tommy) Joseph in it, it becomes a little different.
“That's the best I could come up with.”
The Phillies having lost nine of their previous 11, Mackanin used .234 hitter Freddy Galvis in the three hole, hit Ryan Howard No. 5 spot and gave Carlos Ruiz a start.
But as Mackanin ran his finger down the card, name by name, he wondered aloud why so many hitters were struggling. By the time he reached Jerad Eickhoff at No. 9, it was time to wonder: Is the manager still confident in his hitting coach, Steve Henderson, who has been around since 2012?
“Yes,” Mackanin said, without hesitation. “It’s funny because I listen to him and I go in the cage and I watch what they’re doing. And they are doing exactly what they need to be doing. And in the cage they do it. The hard part is taking it into a game.
“If they’re doing it in the cage, great you've got it, that’s it. Then they swing at the first pitch and they’re underneath the ball. Like I said, you can only teach so much. I’ve said this many times, but I can’t teach you how to ride a bike. You've got to get on it and feel it. I can’t teach you how to ice skate. I can tell you how to tie your skates and push off but you've got to figure it out.”
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Ruiz entered with a .226 average and hit No. 8, but supplied a single, stole his first base of the season and scored a run.
He's 37, has lost his No. 1 catching job to Cameron Rupp … and is testing his manager's patience.
“I don't like his swing,” Mackanin said. “He's upper-cutting the ball. And he doesn't look like the same guy. And I have talked to him about it and he's just not swinging the bat real well. But early on he did. It's a mechanical thing that I think he's got to correct. When you change your mechanics as a hitter, it's very hard to take it into the game. Because it feels different and therefore it feels uncomfortable. However, if you don't make that change, you're not going to hit. And it's as easy as that.”
Thus, Mackanin's stance, even if it is a bit wobbly: Ruiz's troubles are as much mechanical as age-related.
“I think it's a combination,” he said. “I'm looking at the cup half full instead of half empty. So that's the way I choose to look at it.”
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Howard's fourth-inning home run was the 366th of his career, tying him with Lance Berkman for 80th on the all-time list. It was his ninth of the season.
After a week in which he was benched and had a beer bottle thrown in his direction, Howard looked refreshed, sending a ball to the center field fence later in the game, and making a nice throw to second in the ninth.
“It's good,” he said. “I wasn't thinking about the week or the past 10 days. I was just thinking about that moment. I got a good pitch to hit. He hung me a breaking ball. And I was just able to hit it out.”
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Jerad Eickhoff struck out eight and walked two, allowing two hits and one earned run in seven innings.
“That was as good as he's been all year,” Mackanin said.
Gaining more command of his slider and showing velocity, Eickhoff improved to 3-8. His ERA is at 3.68.
“To win games like that you have to be fundamentally sound for the most part,” the right-hander said. “And I think we were tonight in key spots. Those guys behind me did a great job tonight.”
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With his wife, Krystle, Howard will entertain 3,000 school children at Citizens Bank Park Wednesday morning with a read-along from the Little Rhino book series. The event will be on behalf of the Big Piece Foundation.
There will also be a chance for a question-and-answer session with some players. With the Howards, Rupp will act out some of the parts of the book.
The Phillies will play the Cubs at 1:05.
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NOTES: A pregame rain chased both teams into the cages for batting practice … The Phils stole a season-high three bases … Howard had gone 50 at-bats between home runs … Jeanmar Gomez' six-out save was the first multi-inning save of his career … Vince Velasquez (5-2, 3.67 ERA) will face right-hander John Lackey (6-2, 2.88) Wednesday afternoon.


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