CLEARWATER, Fla. -
The Phillies cut their best hitter in spring training. They cut bait with a talented kid they considered a top prospect just last year. Freddy Galvis batted eighth.
The Phillies' spring finale is Friday, but the dress rehearsal for the season was Thursday, when the Yankees came to town, because Thursday manager Pete Mackanin offered a preview of his Opening Day lineup, which he expects will be his everyday lineup. Galvis, who hit 20 homers in 2016, bats eighth in that lineup.
Jesmuel Valentin, a 22-year-old revelation who hit .366 this spring, couldn't make the big club. He will play second base at Lehigh Valley.
Tyler Goeddel, a Rule 5 pick last year who spent all season in the majors, will be designated for assignment to clear a spot for 27-year-old rookie Brock Stassi, who led the team with 17 runs batted in and tied slugger Maikel Franco with six homers.
By any measure, the Phillies have finally given manager Pete Mackanin a viable ballclub.
Galvis is a brilliant defensive shortstop and Phillies would love for him to become a No. 2 hitter - he got five hits there in the three previous games - but veteran outfielder Howie Kendrick hit in the No. 2 hole against the Yankees.
Kendrick will also hit second when the season opens Monday in Cincinnati, right behind Cesar Hernandez. All-Star centerfielder Odubel Herrera, a lefthanded hitter, will bat third; then Maikel Franco; then veteran rightfielder Michael Saunders; then second-year first baseman Tommy Joseph, who had a superb spring. Mackanin can present a left-right-left sequence through the first six spots. Catcher Cameron Rupp will hit seventh, then Galvis, a switch-hitter with startling power.
After a season-and-a-half in flux, Mackanin isn't patching and filling and guessing anymore.
Mackanin inherited a mess after Ryne Sandberg quit in the middle of the 2015 season. This year there was no Ryan Howard with a $25 million contract to wedge into the lineup; no Chase Utley, no Carlos Ruiz. Mackanin knows that Hernandez can consistently get on base and that Herrera can consistently produce. He knows what his players can and can't do, and he finally has the freedom to align them without political repercussion.
"We have a set lineup," Mackanin said. "I'm just going to put them in the spots that are best suited for them and let them play. That's one thing we haven't had since I've been manager."
He also hasn't had a set rotation; a bullpen with parts that fit; or a balanced bench. This time last season, they had to sign Will Venable to complete their outfield. This season they had to send their best spring hitter back to the minors.
The Phillies haven't finished above .500 since 2011 and they have gone 73-89, 73-89, 63-99 and 71-91 over the past four seasons. Those results won't float now.
Mackanin, whose contract is not guaranteed past this season, knows that. He set a goal for 81 wins earlier in spring training. He usually speaks gently. He was terse Thursday, both before and after the game.
The Phillies lost, 14-1.
Jerad Eickoff, the No. 2 starter, didn't make it out of the first inning. He gave up six earned runs on four hits and a two walks. He needed 41 pitches to record two outs. A passed ball didn't help. After Eickoff left, the inning should have ended but third baseman Franco interfered with the runner during a rundown. The next batter, Gary Sanchez, cranked a three-run homer to left that bounced off the thatched roof of Frenchy's Tiki Pavilion.
It was just one spring-training game, but they'll need to play better.
"Obviously, Eickoff had a bad game. It wasn't his day today. It wasn't pretty that whole game," Mackanin said. "That's about it."
It was Eickoff's second rough start of the spring, but he rebounded from the first one with two strong outings. The Phillies went 4-1-1 and played crisply in the six previous games, but those games lacked the dress-rehearsal aspect that Thursday's game had.
Better to get bashed Thursday in Florida than Monday in Ohio. Besides, for a team that had been headed in the wrong direction, things are generally going right.
Aaron Altherr, 26, appears fully recovered from wrist surgery last spring that cost him most of 2016. This was a make-or-break spring for him and he made the best of it, hitting .297 with four homers and six walks, which won him the job as the fourth outfielder.
Andrew Knapp, 25, needed a strong spring, too, since Jorge Alfaro is percolating in Triple A. Knapp's 8-for-20 surge over the last nine days got him the job of backup catcher.
The Phillies also kept Daniel Nava, a 34-year-old outfielder and first baseman who hit .362 this spring. That knocked Valentin off the team. He's a 22-year-old infielder who got just 105 at-bats at Triple A last year, so he can use a little more more seasoning.
That's right: The worst offense in baseball last season can afford to cut a young guy who hit .366 with a .422 on-base percentage.
This year that offense has 20 home runs batting eighth.
This year Mackanin can do his job. Finally.