NASHVILLE - Pete Mackanin's fine handwriting - steeped in his education in the Catholic schools of Chicago's South Side - will return next season to Phillies lineup cards.
The manager will not just be simply stroking his calligraphy pen. He will also have full control over who plays and who does not. Dictated lineups, or at least lineups with front-office influence, seem to be a growing trend across baseball. General manager Matt Klentak said that will not be the case with the Phillies.
"He's in charge of the clubhouse. He's in charge of the players. For his credibility, that has to be the way it is," Klentak said. "But I think if we're collectively doing our jobs the right way and communicating the way that we need to that there should never be an issue. There should never be a time where I want something to happen that he's doing the other way. As long as we're communicating, which we will, there shouldn't be an issue."
A handful of teams - including several postseason teams - were rumored last season to use lineups that were dictated to the manager from the front office. Mackanin said he and Klentak will always talk. The manager said he is open to suggestions, but he will make the final decision on who to play. That is a fair way, Mackanin said.
"He gets the players for me, and I run the team with his input. And I give him input on which players I'd like to have so he makes that final decision," Mackanin said. "Ultimately he ends up making my decision too. If he tells me he wants this guy playing a little bit more, I'm open to it. I get it. I might not agree with it, but in the end if he tells me to do it, I'll do it."
Mackanin is entering his 48th season in professional baseball, but it will be his first spring training as the manager of a major-league team. Klentak said Mackanin's path to his current role - which included scouting and coaching at every level - gives Mackanin a unique perspective. Mackanin said his various roles have taught him to be open minded.
"I think that lends itself very well to understanding the rhythms of the season and what it means to manage a roster and manage people," Klentak said.
Mackanin's biggest quarries will be the way he handles veterans Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. Mackanin said on Monday that he is "50-50" on whether Howard will share first-base duties with Darin Ruf. Ruiz's production - both offensively and defensively - declined last season. Mackanin said Cameron Rupp has the traits of "the kind of guy you're looking for at catcher." He has a strong arm, a good rapport with pitchers, and has potential to hit for power. Lineup decisions are to be made. And they will be Mackanin's to write.
"I'm certainly going to discuss the team and what I'd like to do with them and he might have an idea that I might say, you know what, that's a good idea, we'll use it," Mackanin said. "So far as I'm concerned, I'm making out the lineup and until I'm told any differently, I'm going to continue making it out."