The Philadelphia Phillies managerial search is off and running.  The Phillies interviewed incumbent coach Juan Samuel first on Tuesday.  Yesterday, the Phillies interviewed long-time organizational coach and front office executive Jorge Velandia.

Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia is reporting that Velandia is a "strong candidate" for the job:

Velandia is going to get a long, serious look for this job. Klentak has a very small band of advisers in the organization and while Velandia might not be on the first ring, he's firmly on the second ring. The two have bonded in Klentak's first two years on the job and Velandia has shown a willingness to learn and embrace the analytic side of the game that Phillies ownership has demanded and the front office has built. Velandia has relationships with members of the Phillies' analytics team. His chemistry with Klentak, others in the front office and the analytics team should not be underestimated because game-day strategy is no longer limited to what happens in the dugout during nine innings.

So who is this Velandia, who has seemed to fly under the radar?

Velandia has experience in the major leagues with the San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, New York Mets, the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians.  In 174 big league games, Velandia batted just .189 while serving as a utility infielder.

Velandia joined the Phillies organization in 2009, a minor league free agent.  Velandia played just 10 games for the IronPigs, battling injury and spending several stints on the disabled list.  However, in that short amount of time, Velandia left an impression on the Phillies and he was hired to work in the system.

Velandia was working as special assistant for player personnel for the Phillies when manager Ryne Sandberg resigned in 2015.  After Pete Mackanin was named interim manager, Samuel moved to third base and assistant hitting coach John Mizerock coached first base the rest of the way.  Velandia joined the major league staff as a coach, though he did not take on any particular title.  Velandia told Meghan Montemurro, then of the News Journal, he was somewhat of a "utility" coach.

Velandia told Montemurro that he could see himself as a general manager or a field manager:

“I would like to be a GM – it might take some time,” Velandia said. “I might be a big league manager. I’m picking high. Again, I’ve been in this game for almost 25 years. I’m just a lucky guy to get an opportunity to work in different areas.”

When the 2015 season ended, Velandia joined the front office as a special assistant to general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., then later Matt Klentak.

Leading up to that point, Velandia served the Phillies as a Short-Season Williamsport coach, assistant field coordinator, and special assistant for player development.

The ability to work with the club's Latin players is often mentioned as a desirable skill for the new manager.  Velandia, a native of Venezuela, served as general mananger of 2013 Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic, and spent six seasons managing in the Venezuelan winter league.  Velandia helped run the Tiburones, until this past summer when citing increasing responsibilities for the Phillies, a new front office was named.

When the Phillies decided to move on from Mackanin, I thought maybe the Phillies already knew who was going to come down the pike.  They certainly could have had Velandia in mind from the start.   If it is Velandia, he certainly comes bearing a very impressive resume.

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