Mackanin, Phillies try to keep things light

Mackanin, Phillies try to keep things light

CHICAGO -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is attempting to keep the mood light during his club's recent tough stretch.

From Mackanin's perspective, players who approach the day in a positive manner are naturally going to be more competitive. And as the Phils looked to change their ways in the final game of a four-game series Thursday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Mackanin's players were attempting to follow their manager's lead.

Phillies left fielder Aaron Altherr said he appreciates Mackanin's efforts to keep the mindset right.

"It's baseball and things are going to happen," Altherr said before Thursday's game.

The Phils have managed to keep things loose off the field. Altherr said his teammates find ways to not allow the struggles on the field to impact the day-to-day clubhouse environment.

Mixed in among the Phillies are a select number of jokesters, led by catcher Cameron Rupp, who managed to place a bubble-gum bubble atop the cap of unsuspecting first baseman Tommy Joseph last weekend in Los Angeles.

"It was on there for a while," Altherr said. "We got a pretty good laugh out of that."

Mackanin said he didn't see Rupp's prank, but that the tradition of teammates enjoying some fun at the expense of others is one that is well-established and is one he enjoyed during his playing career.

Among Mackanin's favorites: The hot-foot prank, in which one's shoes or shoelaces are unknowingly lit with a match. It's a joke which Mackanin said has become passé by today's standards. But on one occasion, Mackanin once gave former Twins third-base coach Billy Gardner a hot foot that caused Gardner's shoe to catch fire.

"It was funny until his foot caught on fire," said Mackanin, who acknowledged he paid to have Gardner's shoes replaced. 

Mackanin said he would rather his players stay loose than get wrapped up with what's happened in the past. That's the approach he has taken with players like Joseph, who have struggled of late from the plate.

"That's what I try to keep trying to drill in -- don't worry about what you've done in the past, and keep moving forward and competing and take your chances," Mackanin said. "That's the only way to do it."

In the meantime, Altherr -- who continues to be a bright spot in the Phils' lineup -- will keep his eye out for Rupp as to not fall prey to one of his teammate's pranks. So far, so good.

"They haven't got me yet," Altherr said. "Hopefully that doesn't change."

Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago and covered the Phillies on Thursday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.