Struggling Mayberry losing grip on spot in Phillies lineup

The Phillies' John Mayberry Jr. (behind Hunter Pence) has two hits in his last 17 at-bats.
The Phillies' John Mayberry Jr. (behind Hunter Pence) has two hits in his last 17 at-bats. (               RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 27, 2012

PHOENIX - The Phillies lineup was late Wednesday morning in Arizona. A few players walked past the wall outside the visiting manager's office at Chase Field and saw nothing. Finally, once bench coach Pete Mackanin had written out manager Charlie Manuel's batting order on the official lineup card, he affixed it to the wall with masking tape.

John Mayberry Jr. was one of the first to notice. He was sitting on a leather couch in the middle of the clubhouse with his noise-canceling headphones plugged into his phone. He saw his name written in Mackanin's black calligraphy as the first righthanded bat under "AVAILABLE POSITION PLAYERS."

He was on the bench again.

"You can't really think about that," Mayberry said. "You have to be ready for whenever Charlie thinks it's necessary to put you in the lineup."

Mayberry is Stanford-educated, and he often speaks in clichés, whether he is succeeding or not. Through three weeks of baseball in 2012, he is unequivocally the most disappointing Phillies player, and he relies on the clichés to explain it.

"It's not the start I was looking for," Mayberry said. "But it's one of those things - that's baseball. You just have to work as hard as you can to get back out there."

But it's clear the opportunities for Mayberry to work hard are dwindling, for now. In left field, Juan Pierre has provided a steadying presence at the top of Manuel's lineup - despite numerous mental gaffes - with a .339 batting average.

At first base, the duo of Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix is hitting .319 with a .377 on-base percentage. They have combined for nine extra-base hits in 69 at-bats, a .507 slugging percentage.

In other words, with the Phillies scratching for runs on a nightly basis, it's difficult to play a slumping Mayberry because the alternatives are pacing the team's offense.

"He's got to get going," Manuel said. "He's got to get some hits. We've got to win the game. The game is more important than anything else, anybody else."

Mayberry needs to see live pitching to flip his fate. But right now, the Phillies are hardly in the position to let the 28-year-old play through his slump.

The numbers after 19 games, certainly a small sample size, are disturbing. Only one player in the majors has more at-bats than Mayberry's 45 without drawing a walk. That's Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan.

And only three players entering Thursday's play had struck out more times than Mayberry in 45 or fewer at-bats. His 14 strikeouts account for 31 percent of his at-bats. When he's put the ball in play, 25 percent of the time it is a pop up on the infield.

Mayberry has appeared in every Phillies game this season. But during the 10-game road trip, he started just three times. He has two hits in his last 17 at-bats, and both came in Monday's loss to the Diamondbacks.

Nineteen games doesn't make a season, but the same could be said about the 59 games after his July 5 recall last season. Mayberry hit .301 then, with a staggering .607 slugging percentage.

Mayberry hit two home runs one day last July and Manuel started playing him more.

"It definitely can just happen that fast," Mayberry said. "Last year, I had a couple good games in there and the at-bats came."

The opportunity to make an impression could be shrinking.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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