By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
When Jayson Werth left to go to the Washington Nationals, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had to look for a solid right-handed bat that could fill the speed/power/RBI void that Werth left either as a member of the starting lineup or off of the Phillies bench.
John Mayberry Jr. is hoping to be that guy.
Mayberry showed flashes of the ability to fill the void in Saturday’s game against the New York Mets. Subbing for a struggling Raul Ibanez, who was suffering through what became an 0-36 slump, Mayberry was inserted into the lineup and went 2-for-4 including a game-tying home run.
“The more he hits, the more chances he gets to hit, let’s see where we go from there,” Manuel said. “He’s kind of like Jayson Werth was when he first came here. If John’s going to be play, he’s going to have to move to somebody out of the outfield. We’ll work him in as much as we can to give him a chance.”
Getting those chances to play and hitting to stay in the lineup is the difficult part for Mayberry because his starts are infrequent and the only other times he has a chance to bat is when he’s called into the game as a pinch-hitter.
So far this season, Mayberry has made the most of those opportunities. He is hitting .400 (4-for-10) when coming off the bench coming including a game-winning, walkoff RBI single in the Phillies opening-day win over the Houston Astros. He is tied for third in the majors in pinch hits.
“I’d love to be that guy in a big situation with the game on the line or in a close situation,” Mayberry said. “You have to relish that opportunity and increase your focus a little bit and hopefully you’ll come through.”
Mayberry, who hit his first major league homerun off legendary New York Yankees pitcher Andy Petitte, is hoping that whatever chance he gets to be on the field, he can make the most of it and turn this season into a breakthrough year.
“I definitely view it as an opportunity,” Mayberry said. “I made the team out of came and I get the opportunity to play once and a while. I’m trying to go out there and be productive at whatever task that Charlie gives me.”
At 6-foot-6 inches, 230-pound outfielder, has a wealth of physical talent and potential as well as an outstanding baseball pedigree. Mayberry’s father, John Sr. was a pretty good first baseman for those Kansas City Royals teams that dominated the American League West back in the 1970s.
Mayberry said the one area he wants to improve upon as a hitter is to be able to hit both left-handed and right-handed pitching well. So far this season, the right-handed batting Mayberry is batting .375 against lefties and .250 against right-handers.
“I feel like I’ve had the most success against left-handed pitchers. Thing that I need to work on is to would to be even that out against righties,” Mayberry said. “Charlie has addressed that issue with me before. It’s something to be said that he talked to Jayson Werth about that several years ago. It’s something that I’m going to have to work on and become more consistent against right-handed pitchers.”
On the defensive end, Mayberry can play both left and right field. Like his dad, he can also play first base. Manuel said he’s unsure if he’s going to platoon Mayberry in left field with Raul Ibanez, who had been struggling at the plate. He likes Mayberry’s versatility to the point where has to figure out ways to get him on the field.
“I haven’t made up my mind about a platoon system, but at the same I could be working him and he can play different positions than left field, too,” Manuel said.
Even though there may be a possibility that he could be Ibanez’s replacement either at some point this season or next season, Mayberry said the Phillies current starting left fielder is one of his best mentors.
“I’ve had the opportunity to watch Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez a lot,” Mayberry said. “He really loves talking the game and loves talking hitting and he presents thing in a fashion that I can relate to. He’s a great guy, a professional and somebody who’s had success in the game.”
Mayberry, who played his collegiate ball at Stanford, said the biggest adjustment for him in the majors is the same pitches he faced in the minors are just thrown better and with more precision.
“Everybody’s stuff is definitely cream of the crop,” Mayberry said. “Guys have more movement on their fast ball, their breaking pitches break sharper and also they confidence throwing any pitch on any count.”
As a high school athlete in Kansas City, Mayberry played basketball and got some looks by some smaller programs. But baseball was his passion and he ended up at Stanford. A two-time All-Pacific-10 selection Mayberry hit 35 homeruns, 28 doubles and had a .312 batting avearage with 148 RBI in three years with the Cardinals.
“I think I was just better at baseball, I figured I had a better shot,” said Mayberry, whose favorite players growing up were Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas.
Mayberry was drafted the by the Texas Rangers in 2005 and was eventually trade for Greg Golson and joined the Phillies organization in 2009.
Born the year his father retired from baseball, Mayberry said he never saw his dad play, but got some useful advice from him.
“The biggest thing is to remain relax, stick to the same game that you’ve been playing and just have fun out there,” he said. “This is a great opportunity and make the most of it.”