Mackanin, Phils set for first spring game vs. University of Tampa

Manager ready for next phase of camp, will keep eye on youngsters

Mackanin, Phils set for first spring game vs. University of Tampa

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Play ball.

For the first time this spring, lineup cards were posted on the bulletin board of the Phillies' clubhouse Wednesday, listing the starters for a tuneup game at Spectrum Field against the University of Tampa on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. ET -- which will be shown on an exclusive video webcast on phillies.com -- and the official Grapefruit League opener on Friday against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

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Minor League right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. is slated to start Thursday's exhibition game. The Phillies will also have their Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6, 9 and 11 prospects in the lineup, as ranked by MLBPipeline.com.

While Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is ready to move on to the next phase of Spring Training, there isn't one specific area he's focusing on.

"Because we've got so many things to look at," Mackanin said. "We've got guys we brought into camp that have a chance to make the team. Certainly, I want to see the young guys play as much as I can, especially early in the spring. The guys who are most likely to be on the team are the least of my worries. I know what they can do. They're going to get a little more playing time as we go. But I want to see the new guys, and I want to see the young guys."

Veterans added to the roster for this year are starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders. Position players who could still be around when the Phils open the regular season in Cincinnati on April 3 include Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava and Brock Stassi.

Mackanin will be looking for improved approaches at the plate from his young hitters as the spring unfolds, and he also will keep a close eye on right-hander Aaron Nola, who hasn't pitched since the middle of last season because of an elbow strain.

"[Changing plate approach] is a long process," Mackanin said. "It takes a while for all of that to settle in. When you hit a certain way your whole life or your thought process is a certain way your whole life, it's hard to make changes because you're out of your comfort zone. The important thing is for the players to buy into what [new hitting coach] Matt Stairs is selling. If they do that, I think we're going to improve.

"And I'm real anxious to see Nola pitch. We all know what he's capable of doing when he's healthy. Right now, he appears to be and says he is 100 percent. My only concern for him is as we go along into the season, if it's going to come back to haunt him."

Nola set for 2017 season

Worth noting
• Wednesday's workout was condensed due to morning rain.

"We didn't work on any real fundamentals, but we got all the work we needed," Mackanin said.

• General manager Matt Klentak said Wednesday that right-hander Victor Arano has been diagnosed with a UCL sprain of his elbow. He was examined in Philadelphia on Tuesday and needs at least four weeks of rest, making it unlikely he'll pitch in Major League camp this year.

• Mackanin weighed in on the rule change that would allow hitters to be waved to first on intentional walks without the pitcher having to throw four balls: "There's pluses and minuses to it. We've all seen at one point where a guy will throw a ball to the backstop or somebody will leave one over the plate and hit one. But if that's gone from the game, I don't have a problem with it. I can adjust."

• Catcher Cameron Rupp also commented on the change: "I guess it's kind of like the extra point thing in football. They moved the extra point line back, but you don't see too many mess-ups. I mean, a couple games are lost on it, but I guess not enough to warrant them not keeping it that way. So I guess just tell the guy to go to first base. It is what it is. Trial and error is the only way to see what's going to happen."

Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.