When Cameron Rupp arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Friday ahead of his team's game with the New York Mets, he didn't expect to hear that Pete Mackanin had been fired as the Phillies' manager (see story).
"I was just kind of like ‘Wow'," Rupp said. "It's not something that you ever expect or know when something like that is coming. I guess that's just the nature of the business when they believe it's time to make a change. That's something we have to deal with and it's part of the game."
Instead, Mackanin, who was under contract through 2018, signed a new contract with the club to be a special assistant to the general manager. He will manage the Phillies' final three games of the 2017 season against the Mets.
In almost three seasons as Phillies manager, Mackanin posted a 172-247 record entering Friday with zero playoff appearances. In 2017, the Phillies finished an abysmal first half at 29-58, but have turned it around to end the season behind the success of their young prospects.
After winning 11 of their last 18 games and 17 of 31 since the end of August, Rupp questioned the timing of the decision.
"We've played really good baseball in the second half," Rupp said. "We've had good pitching, offense has been there, and we're in the top in baseball in offense the last couple months. It's not something you expect. You don't come to the ballpark saying, ‘Who's getting fired?' or ‘Who's not going to return?' You come to the ballpark to get ready for the night and when you hear it, it's a little surprising."
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Rookie Rhys Hoskins echoed his teammate's opinion.
"To me, yeah, [it's odd timing]," Hoskins said. "But I've never gone through it. The organization did what it thought was best. We're still going to go out and play hard and try to win these last three games."
Hoskins has been one of the driving forces behind the Phillies' second-half surge, posting 18 home runs and 47 RBIs since being called up on Aug. 10. He attributed much of his early success to the 66-year-old Mackanin.
"He's a great baseball guy," Hoskins said. "He's been around the game for a long time and I think that experience he has is pretty invaluable. He was able to pass that off to some of us young guys. I think being around him for the 50 games that I was up here is something that I'll remember, especially as my first manager in the big leagues."
After Friday's move, Phillies GM Matt Klentak is clearly pushing the team in a new direction (see story). Now Rupp and the rest of the players can't only wait to find what direction that takes them.
"We knew who we were going to be playing for next year and now it's like ‘OK. Who's it going to be?,'" Rupp said. "It's always nice to go into spring training and know what to expect, who's going to be running camp and now it's like ‘What's this camp going to be like? What's this roster going to look like?' There's going to be changes made and decisions that will be made. It will be different for us."