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Mackanin hoping to keep job |

Mackanin hoping to keep job

| Sunday, October 2, 2005 12:00 a.m

Pete Mackanin was able to enjoy his next-to-last day as the Pirates’ interim manager when a surprisingly strong start by Kip Wells keyed a 5-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

The question is whether Mackanin will still be smiling today after he meets with general manager Dave Littlefield. He and the coaching staff will meet individually with Littlefield after the Pirates put the finishing touch on their 13th consecutive losing season.

Mackanin is hoping to have the interim tag removed from his title. So far, Littlefield has given no indication whether Mackanin will be considered for the job — or even if he’ll be asked back to the organization next year. Mackanin, like each of the coaches, has a contract that expires at the end of the season.

“He should play poker,” Mackanin said. “You can’t even trick him. You can’t even make a comment where he’ll reply one way or the other. He’s pretty good.”

The Pirates are 11-14 since Sept. 6 when Mackanin replaced Lloyd McClendon. The record was 55-81 before he took over.

“Personally, I think I’m a good fit, but that’s my opinion,” Mackanin said. “We’ll have to wait and see what they think.”

Mackanin is just one of several in-house possibilities to land the full-time job. Third base coach John Russell interviewed for the Philadelphia Phillies position last winter, and director of player development Brian Graham was recommended for the Cincinnati Reds’ job in December 2003 before ownership overruled the decision and went with Dave Miley.

If he doesn’t get the job, Mackanin hasn’t ruled out returning to the organization in some capacity. He has seven years of major-league coaching experience and has managed every rung of the professional ladder. His minor-league teams finished either first or second in eight of his 13 seasons.

“I’d like to be loyal to Dave within reason,” he said. “If you look at my resume, the things I’ve done well in baseball, I’d like to believe he’d at least want my opinion on certain things. I think I’ve been very forthright with him. I think I’ve been able to read players pretty well over the course of my time in baseball.”

Wells (8-18) made Mackanin’s job easier last night when he snapped a six-game losing streak by holding the Brewers to one unearned run in 62/3 innings.

Freddy Sanchez extended his hitting streak to a team-high 16 games by going 2 for 4 with two doubles. He scored the run that snapped a 1-1 tie in the fifth and drove in an insurance run in the seventh.

Craig Wilson had two hits, including an RBI double. Jason Bay, Nate McLouth and J.J. Furmaniak also drove in runs.

Wells issued four walks and six hits, yet he didn’t allow a run after the Brewers scored in the first. He departed with two outs in the seventh, runners on the corners and the Pirates clinging to a 2-1 lead. John Grabow picked Rickie Weeks off first to end the threat.

“He’s hard to watch when he’s not on,” Mackanin said. “When he is on, it’s really nice. Tonight, I don’t know if he was at his best, but he was close.”

Wells hadn’t won since Aug. 19 in Philadelphia and his last win over a team other than the Phillies was June 8 against Baltimore. That’s one reason why, in spite of last night’s win, he will finish as the major-league leader in losses.

Wells, however, did avoid becoming the Pirates’ first 19-game loser since Jose DeLeon went 2-19 in 1985.

“It gives me peace of mind heading into the offseason knowing that I finished on a good outing,” Wells said. “The season has been disappointing, but you have to deal with the circumstances as they are and try to have a good outing in the end.”

The start could have been Wells’ last in a Pirates uniform. Since he could watch his $3.175 million salary increase in his final year of arbitration, Wells could be non-tendered if the Pirates are unable to trade him before Dec. 20.

“I’m not too worried about it,” Wells said. “I feel like I have some good value. The Lord blessed me with a good arm, and it’s my job to make the best out of it.”

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