When the Philadelphia Phillies open the regular season on Thursday, April 5 against the host Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:30 p.m., it’s going to be interesting to see how well the team plays without second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard. Utley and Howard are two key players who have been a part of the 2008 World Series championship as well as the five consecutive National League East title teams.
Both players have been major run producers for the Phillies. Without the power of Utley and Ryan who are both nursing knee and Achilles injuries respectively, the Phillies will need some production from several places in the batting lineup. Rightfielder Hunter Pence and shortstop Jimmy Rollins are capable of stepping up.
However, it will be interesting to see what leftfielder John Mayberry Jr. does as the season gets started. Mayberry really struggled in spring training, hitting just .192. He recently broke a 0-for-19 slump with a home run.
Despite the slow beginning, this could be a big year for him. He will be in the starting lineup against the Pirates. Mayberry should get plenty of swings at the plate.
A year ago, Mayberry showed everybody what he could do right off the bat. He came in as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and nailed a single to drive in the winning run to give the Phillies a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros. He hit .273 with 15 home runs in 104 games. He also drove in 49 RBIs and scored 37 runs. It was a very productive season for him.
The Phillies are going to rely on him a little more this year particularly when it comes to his versatility. He’s capable of playing all three outfield positions as well as first base. The 6-foot-6, 234-pounder, has the range and the quickness to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. At first base, he has good instincts. He knows how to cover the bag.
Mayberry is the son of former major league first baseman John Mayberry Sr. His dad could really play the position. With Howard rehabbing, Jim Thome should get a lot of work at first base. But if needed, Mayberry should be able to step in and play some games.
Mayberry, 28, is one of the best athletes on the team. He was a great scholastic baseball and basketball player at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo. In 2002, Mayberry was chosen by the Seattle Mariners in the Major League Baseball Draft. He decided to play college baseball instead of signing a baseball contract. He played baseball for Stanford University where he was an All-Pac-10 selection.
After his junior year, he was selected by the Texas Rangers as the 19th pick overall in the 2005 draft. Mayberry spent three years in the Rangers minor league system before the Phillies acquired him. In 2008, the Phillies traded outfielder Greg Golson to the Rangers for Mayberry. He spent a good part of the next three years on the Phillies AA and AAA minor league teams.
This will be his first full year as a starter. The Phillies have the pitching staff with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley and relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon to keep the games close.
They’re going to need some timely hitting to move the runners as well as score some big runs. Mayberry should be able to give the Phillies a lift with his bat and base running.