Bowa, Mackanin happy to be back

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Larry Bowa returns for his 26th season with the Phillies organization.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Larry Bowa returns for his 26th season with the Phillies organization.
Posted: October 11, 2013

IN THE LAST 3 years, as the Phillies spiraled downward from the team with baseball's best record to one staring at their first losing season in more than a decade, Larry Bowa, who probably has red pinstripes worn into his skin, watched from a television studio in Secaucus, N.J.

In the last 12 months, after a season that ended without a trip to the postseason for the first time in a half-dozen years followed by one that ended with the seventh-worst record in the game, Pete Mackanin watched from afar - but not too far away.

Bowa and Mackanin have both returned to the Phillies organization, taking coaching positions on manager Ryne Sandberg's 2014 staff. Even with their familiarity and Phillies lineage, both Bowa and Mackanin hope to bring a fresh perspective to a franchise in dire need.

A day after their hires, the two newest members of the Phillies coaching staff spoke with the media in a conference call yesterday afternoon.

"There are places as an analyst that you see obviously are a concern - you can never have enough pitching, and the outfield play wasn't what it needed to be," said Bowa, who returns for what will be his 26th season in a Phillies uniform as Sandberg's bench coach. "That doesn't mean you don't have the pieces . . . you have to do your best to make them better."

Bowa spent the last three seasons as an analyst with MLB Network. Mackanin, who was fired just a year ago after working as the Phillies bench coach from 2009-12, was back on the trail as a scout for the Yankees, a position he also held in 2008.

"You look at things and players in a different way, and you evaluate them in a different way," Mackanin said of his year away from the Phillies. "When you're with the players over the course of 7 months, you see all the warts and downplay the good things. As a scout, you do look for warts, but also for the good things and get an overall history."

Bowa and Mackanin will immediately begin working with Sandberg, Ruben Amaro Jr. and company in an effort to turn the 89-loss Phillies back into a contender in 2014. With a roster full of high-salaried players, oft-injured players or not-ready-for-prime-time players, it's not exactly a simple task.

But in the first selections he made in assembling his coaching staff - the Phils aren't finished, with the pitching coach vacancy looming largest - Sandberg clearly wanted people he wasn't just comfortable with but also coaches who understood the current state of the team.

"They know the team, they know the players," Sandberg said Tuesday. "They have a feel for Phillies baseball and expectations."

Bowa might have that feel better than anyone who has ever been with the Phillies.

The former skinny shortstop made himself into one of the best fielding infielders in the National League 40 years ago and thrived as the Phillies made what was then the best run in franchise history in the late 1970s, culminating with a World Series championship in 1980. Although he was traded away before that core returned to the World Series in 1983, he was back as third-base coach in 1993, when the Phillies claimed the National League pennant.

Bowa returned again, this time as manager, when Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell and Brett Myers arrived to usher in a new era of Phillies baseball. Bowa was fired after four seasons - the Phils finished with a winning record in three of them, but never made the playoffs.

In 5 of the 9 years since he left the Phillies, Bowa worked under Joe Torre's coaching staffs with both the Yankees and Dodgers. Bowa couldn't help but learn more about the craft of coaching.

"Joe was the type of manager who wanted his coaches to be coaches," Bowa said. "In other words, he gave us responsibilities in certain areas. But watching him in pressure situations, he never wavers. He had the same mannerisms, and that's how he was in the clubhouse as well. He let his coaches coach, and that was Joe. Ryne, his demeanor is very similar to Joe's from what I saw from him in those 6 weeks [he managed the Phillies]."

Has Bowa changed during that time?

"You understand there are more cameras around than 12, 13 years ago," Bowa said. "There are things you change, no doubt. The players are different, the personalities are different and as a coach you have to make that adjustment."

Both Bowa and Mackanin were atop Sandberg's list when he began compiling names for his 2014 coaching staff.

Bowa and Sandberg, who were once traded together from the Phillies to the Cubs, have talked about being on the same major league staff for years. Mackanin received a call from the Phillies before the 2013 season ended last month - less than 12 months after the same organization gave him his walking papers.

"I asked if this was OK with Ruben and the organization, and [Sandberg] said yes, there were no issues and that they talked about that, and I said, 'Great,' " Mackanin said. "So here I am."

Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla., on Feb. 13. Bowa and Mackanin will be ready for them.

"Once you're on the field, that never goes away - that competitiveness, working with the coaches and the manager, seeing the guys improve," Bowa said. "That's your job, you want to see players improve. The staff Ryno has put together, it's going to take a lot of hard work [from it]. The bottom line is you have to win more games than you did last year."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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