Young Phillies filled with energy on first day

Young Phillies filled with energy on first day

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pete Mackanin patrolled the Carpenter Complex on Thursday morning looking pretty much like everybody else.

Mackanin watched the players, then he checked the back of their jerseys to read their names.

"I'm trying to put a name to the face," Mackanin said.

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Only 18 out of the 65 players in Phillies camp opened Spring Training last year with the team. Many of the new faces this year include the organization's top prospects. Of the seven players in MLBPipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, six are at Bright House Field. Could they join the Phillies before the end of the season, or will the organization take things more slowly knowing they have a long rebuild ahead of them?

"We had a good first day," Mackanin said following the first workout for pitchers and catchers. "The timing worked great, we had guys moving. A lot of guys in camp. Boy oh boy. I looked at that clubhouse, and it was full of people. A lot of energy. A lot of competition. I think that's going to breed a lot of excitement."

There is more energy in the clubhouse than in recent seasons for a few reasons. First, there are more young players, and young players want to prove themselves. Second, even the more established players know no job is completely safe. Third, Mackanin simply is more gregarious than former manager Ryne Sandberg.

"I took a course on motivation in college one semester," Mackanin quipped.

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But Mackanin can easily see why this camp feels different, even if more energy might not translate into many more wins than last season, when the Phillies lost 99 games.

"Back when I played, players came into Spring Training to get in shape," Mackanin said. "Everybody was overweight and most -- 60 percent of the guys -- smoked. You were here to get in shape. Over the course of time, it's changed quite a bit. We've got a lot of finely tuned athletes. Players are not stupid. They know that jobs are available. They know that there are things they can do to make an impression. We talked to them at the end of last year to let them know that, as I've always said, you're auditioning all the time. 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."

Mackanin also touched on a couple other topics on Thursday:

On experience being a factor when it comes to the Opening Day starter: "We're going to talk about it, and we'll decide on the guy who we feel is the best guy suited for the job. Experience is very important, but at the same time, for example, I liked the mound presence of [Jerad] Eickhoff and [Aaron] Nola. Neither one of them showed any fear. That's a big part of it. That being said, experience is a definite factor."

On innings limits for the team's young pitchers: "We'll come up with a plan. We're certainly going to take care of some of these guys. We're not going to overdo it. Just wait and see. I told Nola, for example, the last outing he pitched, I told him, 'I'm taking you out of the game here,' and he said, 'Why?' I said, 'We're taking care of you, but next year we're not going to take care of you.' If we feel he's capable of throwing 200 innings, he's going to throw 200 innings. But once again, we're going to have to discuss that in-house."

On a potential lack of leadership amongst the position players: "We'll find out during the course of the spring. We've discussed that. You always like to have a leader in the clubhouse. I posed this question to [bench coach] Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt. I said, 'When you guys played and you were successful, did you need somebody to be your leader? Did you need somebody to tell you how to play and what to do?' To a man, they all said no, because that was their makeup. There's going to be enough players with good makeup that I think out of that bunch one or two guys might rise to the occasion and become the leaders. It's something you can't teach. You just have to hope it evolves."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.