The national media would like you to believe that the Phillies have not had a lot of success so far this spring but they currently have one of the best records in the Grape Fruit League at 14-8. The injury concerns have yielded the majority of the media attention and have allowed several players to quietly have very good springs. It can be hard to get a read on some players during the spring; some are fighting for a roster spot while others are just trying to get their game ready for Opening Day. It’s obvious that a good spring doesn’t translate into a great season or a bad spring doesn’t means you will have a bad season. But you can’t completely ignore some good performances by some Phillies in Clearwater.
John Mayberry Jr.
It’s hard not to compare the 6-6 Mayberry to our former right fielder. They were both lanky outfielders who were high draft picks and they never seemed to live up their potential early in their career. Mayberry was selected by the Texas Rangers with the 19th overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft. He was acquired by the Phillies for fellow first round disappointment Greg Golson. Mayberry has always been able to destroy fastballs but has had a lot of trouble with the off speed pitch. He has spent the last two seasons with the team in the minors but has showed he is ready to contribute at the major league level. The Phillies have given Mayberry 48 at bats so far this spring and he has been one of their best performers so far. He has 4 homeruns and 9 RBI’s while batting an impressive .327. Mayberry leads the team in total bases with 30 and has a team high 4 stolen bases. With just two weeks left till opening day, it looks like he will start the season with the team and be their 1st right handed bat off the bench. The Phillies have also had John play some 1st base and he has done solid job so far, this will give Charlie a chance to use Mayberry if he wants to give Howard a day off against a tough lefty. Mayberry is the kind of player has had enormous potential his whole career but has never seemed to put it all together.
Ibanez is at the center of the “Phillies are getting Old” argument that the haters like to use. He will turn 39 in June but he took a more aggressive approach to his training this off season getting in tremendous shape. With the injury to Utley, it looks like Raul will play a very important rule in the offense as he will most likely bat 3rd. After an ugly first half to last season, Ibanez quietly had a very productive 2nd half. After the all star break he hit .309 with an OPS of .869. His numbers this spring are similar to the spring he had in 2009 when he put together a very impressive first half and started in the all star game. He’s hitting .286 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI’s. A productive year out of Ibanez will give the team a tremendous boost this season.
It’s hard to imagine a Pittsburgh Pirates cast away even making a World Series contending team. It’s not farfetched to believe that Young will not only make the team out of spring but make a serious impact as well. Young is never going to be a consistent starter with a team but a switch hitter with some pop who can play multiple positions has a lot of value. So far this spring Young has played in both the infield and the outfield. He is currently hitting .304 with 1 home run and 6 RBI’s. Young’s play this spring looks to have earned him a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster. His experience has a pinch hitter could be an asset to Charlie throughout the season.
His spring got off to a slow start because of what the team called minor elbow inflammation but he has rebounded to have a very impressive spring. A lefty out of the pen who can throw hard is has huge value to the team. In limited innings Bastardo has been very impressive. In his 5 innings of work he has yet to surrender a run. He has only given up one hit and has struck out 7 while only walking 3. During his young career he has shown electric stuff at times but has struggled with his command. If he continues his solid pitching, he could supplant Romero has the top lefty in the pen. At the very least he could give the team 2 solid lefties for the first time in at least a season.
Mathieson is the type of pitchers that fans love to watch as his fastball can light up the radar gun. But in the majors, it doesn’t matter how hard you throw, if it is straight and down the middle, hitters are going to tee off on it. Last year he dominated minor league hitters but struggled in his limited action in the bigs. The Phillies have enlisted the help of former pitching great Bruce Setter to teach Scott how to throw a cutter. In addition to the cutter, he still throws a slider. It is a pitch that he still thinks can be an effective pitch for him. In 7 innings Mathieson has given up 2 runs while only giving up 3 hits. Mathieson has been through a lot having two Tommy John surgeries. It looks as though he will not make the opening day roster. But I am sure that the Phillies have noticed his impressive spring and it won’t be long till he gets another chance.
Spring training has become one of my favorite things during the year, it is not only sign that warm weather is on its way, it means that baseball is just around the corner. Plus you get to see how some young players will respond to playing with major league talent. It’s easy to look at the Utley situation and call it a bad spring. But the team has had a very good spring and a lot of young players have showed a lot. The chances that some players get during the spring can sometimes even make or break their future career in the game. It seems that most of the question marks like Mayberry and Bastardo have answered a lot of questions. In just two weeks we will be able to see if the results we have seen in the spring will translate to the regular season.