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Pete Mackanin: 'I Feel Like We Can Play .500'

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Phillies Manager Pete Mackanin isn't about to make any brash World Series predictions.

Mackanin and several players were in town on Wednesday with the start of spring training less than a month away. The Phillies made progress last season, but still have work to do before becoming a World Series contender. Mackanin knows his team likely won't be playing in late October, but still expects to see another step forward in 2017.

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"We might not go from A to Z and get into the World Series," said Mackanin. "But I think we're going to go from A to F or A to G. We're going to start making our move towards more wins."

It was a fairly quiet off-season for the Phillies, but the team did make two key additions. The outfield received a boost with the additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders. They will be added to a relatively young nucleus and competition for starting jobs is expected to heat up during spring training. Mackanin believes the push for playing time will make his team better in the long run.

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"I hope they all step up and start making the decisions a lot more difficult," Mackanin said. "We've got guys at the big league level that I choose to believe are going to get better. With the young guys, I'm hoping they make their move."

One of the younger players who Mackanin will be counting on is Tommy Joseph. The first baseman came up in the middle of last season and saw a majority of the playing time at first base in place of Ryan Howard. This year, Joseph will start the season in the majors but refuses to take anything for granted.

"I guess you can say it's a little more comfortable because I'm going to be on the big league side this year," said Joseph. "The job still has to be earned. Nothing is going to be given to you."

One job in the starting rotation belongs to Aaron Nola. The former first round draft pick suffered through an injury-plagued 2016 campaign, but Nola believed he has completely recovered and is looking forward to the upcoming season.

"I'm going to look on the positive side of everything that happened," Nola said. "I can look back at the part I had at the beginning of the year and then learn from the things through that bad stretch I had toward the middle and the end of the year. Hopefully, in this coming season and in the future when things like that happen again, I'll know how to fix them."

A strong rotation and an improved batting order should help the Phillies take another step up in 2017. How far they can step upward remains to be seen.

"I don't want to set the goal too high because I want to be fair to everybody," said Mackanin. "I don't want to get anybody carried away with this, but I feel like if we can play .500 and bring it into the first part of August where the guys start really gelling and believing in themselves, I think we can be in the hunt."

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