The Philadelphia Phillies already have their manager for next season but it isn’t entirely clear if one of their all-time leading sluggers will be back even though he is under contract through 2016.
Miami’s managerial situation is also up in the air, and Dan Jennings could sit in the Marlins dugout for the final time when Dee Gordon pursues the NL batting title Sunday against the Ryan Howard-less Phillies, who will try to avoid 100 losses.
The Phillies turned interim manager Pete Mackanin into a permanent one Sept. 22 in a contract that extends through next season with a team option for 2017. Philadelphia (62-99) went 6-3 in its first nine games after that announcement but was swept by the Marlins (71-90) in a doubleheader Saturday.
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That means the Phillies need a win Sunday to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961.
Howard won’t get to contribute to that attempt because of a bruised left knee that’s kept him out since Sept. 14.
"I don’t think I’ll play him the rest of the year," Mackanin told MLB’s official website. "I don’t see the point of that."
The future for the first baseman, who will turn 36 in November, appears at least a little murky after he hit .229 with 23 homers and posted an abysmal .418 OPS against left-handed pitchers while platooning with Darin Ruf.
Those struggles versus southpaws are among the issues that have made it difficult to move Howard but a forthcoming $25 million salary would seem an even greater hindrance. He’s also set to make another $10 million should the Phillies buy out their 2017 team option on his deal.
Howard’s 357 homers are second in franchise history to Mike Schmidt’s 548.
Jennings’ prospects of returning in 2016 as Miami’s manager appear even fuzzier. The Marlins put their former general manager – who had no experience as an MLB field manager or a player – in the dugout May 18 to replace the fired Mike Redmond.
It’s unclear if Jennings will return to the front office after Sunday’s game.
"If I’m asked to go back upstairs, then there are conversations that are going to have to take place," Jennings said. "I want to understand where things are, because I’ve been removed for 4 1/2 months. So, there is catchup I have to be involved in."
Gordon will try to become the second Marlins player to win an NL batting title after Hanley Ramirez in 2009. Gordon went 4 for 9 in the doubleheader to surpass 200 hits and boost his average to .331, putting him a mere .0001 behind Washington’s Bryce Harper.
Gordon is 2 for 6 lifetime against David Buchanan (2-9, 7.54 ERA), who is 0-4 with a 9.49 ERA in his last six starts.
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.49 ERA in four starts versus Miami and allowed two runs in five innings Sept. 23 in a 4-3 loss.
Marlins rookie left-hander Adam Conley (4-1, 3.84) will seek to close out 2015 with a fourth consecutive victory. He has a 2.97 ERA in his last six starts and gave up two runs over six innings in a 4-2 loss in Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
He’s 0-1 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts against Philadelphia and pitched opposite Buchanan last month, yielding one run in six innings with a season-high eight strikeouts in the 11-inning victory.