PITTSBURGH -- With 37 years of professional experience under his belt, it's no surprise that Pete Mackanin is a self-proclaimed baseball lifer. On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates former bench coach was given the opportunity of a lifetime when he was named Pirates interim manager in the wake of Lloyd McClendon's dismissal. "I've had experience with Pete in the past with the Montreal Expos and here with the Pirates as a Minor League manager and as a bench coach," said Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield. "I feel confident that Pete will handle things fine for the rest of the season."
After nearly four decades of playing, coaching and managing, with stops everywhere from Iowa to Ottawa to the Venezuelan winter leagues, Mackanin is finally getting a chance to show that he has what it takes to manage in the big leagues, even if it does end up being just a 26-game trial. "I'm pleased that Littlefield feels confident enough in me to just handle this situation," said Mackanin. "I don't have a silver bullet to get things done. I would like to win 15-20 games in a row. That's what we'd all like to see. But the way I perceive it is try to win as many games as we can." Mackanin was beginning to wonder if the opportunity would ever come. Despite his 917-849 career managerial record in the Minor Leagues, his success in the winter leagues and his eight years of experience as a big league coach, Mackanin had never even had a chance to interview for a Major League managerial opening. "I've managed over 2,500 games and I've got a winning record," said Mackanin. "When I look at the resume in the media guide, I look at it and say, 'Doesn't somebody see it and say, 'Why don't we give this guy a chance?' ' based on the success I've had." "I guess this is better than an interview," Mackanin quipped. Mackanin plans to make the most of his big chance, but not at the expense of the development of the Pirates' core of young players. Rookies Ryan Doumit and Brad Eldred were in the starting lineup on Tuesday night and they'll continue to see regular playing time. "I know this is a touchy situation and we've got to win as many games as we can," said Mackanin. "But at the same time, I think it is very important, if not more important, to have a good idea about next year." During his tenure as the bench coach, Mackanin was known for his dry wit, and that sense of humor is not likely to change in the coming weeks. However, Mackanin has let it be known that he will not stand for the fundamental mistakes the young Pirates players have been making recently. "It's a juggling act between patting a guy on the [behind] to keep him positive and jumping him to make sure he doesn't do it again," said Mackanin. "This is a bottom line business. This is the Major Leagues. This is hard ball. You don't accept things like that." Strategically, Mackanin doesn't think he'll be all that different from most managers, but he's not afraid to go against the book if necessary. Mackanin likes to try to steal third base with no outs or two outs because the opponents aren't looking for it, and he's big on pinch-hitting late in games based solely on lefty/righty matchups. Perhaps the biggest change Mackanin implemented on Tuesday was moving shortstop Jack Wilson up to the second spot in the lineup up from eighth. "Jack's been raising his average a little," said Mackanin. "I think Jack's a better hitter than he's shown." After the season ends, Mackanin hopes that the imprint he has made on the team will result in more than a 26-game trial as a big league skipper. "My only goal would be to make the Pittsburgh Pirates as good as they can be for the next three weeks and then see what happens from there," said Mackanin. "I have no agenda. I just want to do the best I can. Hopefully it will be good enough to warrant a look, if not from the Pirates then somebody else.
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.