Inside the Phillies: Mayberry has made changes to improve

Posted: August 19, 2011

It says a lot about John Mayberry Jr.'s season that when people ask Charlie Manuel about him these days, the Phillies manager becomes slightly agitated.

"Look, I've answered this question 10,000 times," Manuel said Thursday before the Phillies took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks with the help of another Mayberry home run.

Mayberry's monster shot off Arizona ace Ian Kennedy hit halfway up the left-field foul pole. It was his 10th home run of the season and it preceded a violent thunderstorm and lengthy rain delay that halted the game after three innings at Citizens Bank Park.

The Mayberry question-meter continues to rise because his contributions and batting average have skyrocketed since July 5. That date represents the last time Mayberry was promoted from triple-A Lehigh Valley, which had been his primary baseball residence since he came to the Phillies in a trade with the Texas Rangers after the 2008 season.

After getting over his initial agitation about being asked about Mayberry again, Manuel gave an in-depth answer about why the lightbulb has gone off for the 27-year-old former first-round draft pick.

"He's changed," the manager said. "He's bigger. He's got a stronger core and he has a different approach at the plate. He's changed his stance, he's changed his hitting position, his load and everything. He's worked hard at it the last two years and he's gotten better. That's about all I can tell you."

Actually, Manuel's actions in the last six weeks have told us as much about Mayberry as the manager's words. Mayberry has started 14 games since July 5 and hit seven of his 10 home runs. Before Hunter Pence arrived at the trade deadline, Mayberry had replaced Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco as Manuel's rightfielder of choice.

Mayberry's playing time has dwindled since Pence arrived, but the manager still finds a way to get him in the lineup when he can. Even with Pence here, Mayberry has been in the lineup against every lefthanded starter the Phillies have faced, with the exception of Washington's John Lannan.

"John is strong against lefthanded pitchers, and we've always thought he could hit lefties," Manuel said. "The fact that he hits good against them gives him a real good chance of being in there. We definitely look for Mayberry to get more playing time. He has definitely moved up on the totem pole from where he was at the start of the season."

In truth, Mayberry has had more success against righthanders than lefties this season. His home run against the righthanded Kennedy on Thursday night raised his average to .272. He has five home runs and 22 RBIs against righthanders.

His five home runs against lefties give Manuel a great first option off the bench on those nights when Mayberry's name is not in the lineup.

Already this season, Mayberry has had a game-winning hit on opening day, a five-RBI night in New York against the Mets, and a dramatic, game-tying home run when the Phillies were down to their last strike against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

His batting average as the Phillies sat through Thursday's long delay was up to .266 from a low of .229 the last time he was sent to Lehigh Valley. His 34 RBIs were just two fewer than Chase Utley's in 97 fewer at-bats.

The future should be fascinating for Mayberry, too. He wasn't on the playoff roster last October, but it would not be surprising to see him in the starting lineup for a few games in this postseason.

If he continues to produce, he could end up as the starting leftfielder a year from now. Manuel has compared him often to Jayson Werth, a late bloomer who now has a World Series ring and a large bank account.

"How does [Mayberry] get to play more? Beat somebody out," Mayberry said. "That's how Jayson Werth got to play and that's how he made $127 million."


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com

or @brookob on Twitter.

 

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