By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
Before the Phillies picked up right fielder Hunter Pence shortly before the July 31st trade deadline, Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence in a trade with the Houston Astros, Phils back outfielder John Mayberry Jr. wanted to be that big right-handed slugger through what he was doing with his bat.
“I’m definitely excited about being a Phillie long term and hopefully I’m in their plans as such,”
Mayberry said last month.
And the Phillies organization feels the same way after watching Mayberry tear the cover off the ball for the last month.
While Pence has made a big difference for the Phillies hitting behind Ryan Howard, Mayberry is on a huge tear for the Phillies. In his last two games alone, he has hit two home runs and has driven in six runs including a three-run shot he hit in Tuesday 9-4 win over the New York Mets. In his last 27 games, he has batted .346 with eight home runs and 29 runs batted in.
“I think he’s earned the right to stay in there for a little while to see what he can do,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “That’s how you win jobs. I’ve said it over and over. He looks pretty good. He’s a good looking hitter right now.”
The 27-year-old Mayberry is currently on a six-game hitting streak with a .455 batting average. Twenty-one of his last 33 hits have been for extra bases.
“I’m ready and hopefully I will continue to be ready whenever Charlie calls,” Mayberry said. “I just come ready for whatever my role in the game will be that day. Lately, I’ve getting more opportunities to start. … I’ve been feeling like I can really follow the ball.”
Manuel said Mayberry worked on his game and his batting stance during the off-season and worked on it during spring training along with a rigorous off-season workout.
“He’s changed his approach,” said Manuel. “He’s spread out a little bit, he’s a little bit lower. He’s really concentrating at getting over his swing. He’s definitely worked on shortening his swing. His swing is more compact and he stays on the ball better. He’s more smooth and he’s hitting the ball real good.”
Both Manuel and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said this season was a crucial year for Mayberry, who came to the Phillies via trade for Greg Golson in 2008. He came up with the team briefly in 2009 and even hit a home run off then New York Yankees lefthander Andy Pettite and spent last season at Tripl- A Lehigh Valley.
“This was an important year for John because he’s gotten some opportunities and at some point you have to start producing,” Amaro said. “To his credit, he’s worked very hard and he’s starting to gain some confidence in himself. He’s done some good things for us.”
Amaro said that he and special consultant to the general manager Pat Gillick met with Mayberry during the off-season and told him that he had the opportunity to compete for right field or one of the other outfield spots.
“As an extra outfielder or an extra player or a bench player, you never know what kind of an opportunity you’re going to get until someone says something to you,” Amaro said. “Rather than leading him in the dark, we said ‘you have a chance to be on our own club and we’re hopeful and we’re counting on you to step your game and seize the opportunity. … To his credit, he was prepared and he was one of our best players in spring training.”
Mayberry said after his conversation with Amaro and Gillick that this season was probably his best chance to get some time in the Phillies starting lineup and to really show what he can do on the field for the Phillies.
“I definitely felt like the opportunity was better this year than in years past and Ruben and Pat Gillick’s visit kind of reiterated that,” Mayberry said. “It was a goal of mine to make the team I achieved it and I went into spring training ready to go.”
But things weren’t all that easy for Mayberry. He was sent back down to the minors in June to get some more playing time, but he took things and stride until he had another chance to come back.
“It’s disappointing anytime you’re sent down, but you just try to continue to work hard, be ready for the next opportunity that the team needs you,” Mayberry said. “It’s seeming to work out thus and so it can’t be that bad.”
Manuel has often compared Mayberry’s situation to that of Jayson Werth, who came to the Phillies as a bench player in 2007 and eventually ended his time in Philadelphia as a starter and a free agent, who got a big $127 million contract with the Washington Nationals. Mayberry said he wouldn’t mind getting to that level.
“Well, why not, Werth has obviously done very well for himself, If I can do anything like that would just fine,” Mayberry said with a smile. “If ($127 million) came to me, I wouldn’t be upset.”