Mackanin taking first base day by day

Starts between Howard, Joseph to be based on matchups

Mackanin taking first base day by day

PHILADELPHIA -- Is Pete Mackanin facing one of his toughest managerial challenges to date?

"Hell yes," the 64-year-old baseball lifer said, as he let out a hearty laugh prior to Monday's game against the Nationals.

Mackanin, in his first season at the helm of the Phillies, has been tasked with transitioning the past into the future. Many changes are already taking shape. A good manager handles the situation without the product on the field taking a hit. A great manager does so while keeping the clubhouse in order. It is Mackanin's prerogative -- or at least his belief -- to let the lineup do the talking.

When Tommy Joseph was penciled in at first base, batting fourth against Cubs right-hander John Lackey on Sunday, neither the 24-year-old Joseph nor the 36-year-old Ryan Howard were notified in person of the change.

"I haven't been called into the office and talked to about it, so you guys apparently have breaking news before I do," Howard told the media after Sunday's 7-2 loss.

Mackanin hasn't communicated anything to his first basemen because he doesn't believe there's anything to communicate. Simply, he has a young player up from Triple-A whom he and the front office want to get a look at.

On a day-to-day basis, Mackanin is top dog when it comes to lineups, playing time and the like. From upper management, Mackanin said "pretty much all I go by right now" is to make sure Joseph doesn't stagnate against right-handers, whom he had success against in Triple-A this season.

Mackanin had similar orders at the beginning of the season regarding Tyler Goeddel. Since Mackanin started playing him nearly every day in left field at the start of May, he's hitting .313 and slugging .493, compared with .160 marks for both prior.

Joseph, who's hitting .286 (10-for-35) with three home runs since being called up, isn't going to start every day at first, according to Mackanin.

Joseph's solo homer

"Howie's still in the picture, he's not being benched," Mackanin said. "If I was going to sit him on the bench and he wasn't going to play anymore, I'd have to have a conversation."

Instead, Mackanin will lean on splits when deciding who to start between Howard and Joseph. He said the platoon role Darin Ruf played was more due to Ruf's success against lefties than Howard's struggles versus righties.

With Tanner Roark on the mound for the Nationals in Monday's series opener, Mackanin gave the nod to Howard, who is 4-for-12 (.333) against right-hander.

Mackanin wouldn't speculate as to who would start even a game in advance. He's handling it day by day. Want to know who's the Phillies' starting first baseman? Look at the lineup, just like Howard and Joseph.

Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.