PITTSBURGH - The upside of keeping John Mayberry Jr. in the majors was the presence of a righthanded power bat with decent speed who had the ability to hit a home run or steal a base in a key late-game situation.
But the Phillies decided yesterday that the upside of sending him back to the minors was greater. Not only would the team be able to hang on to Rule 5 infielder/outfielder Michael Martinez, but Mayberry would get to play every day in the minors and continue his attempt at developing into a consistent big-league hitter.
"It's a pretty simple decision, from that perspective," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said.
So when the Phillies activated Shane Victorino from the disabled list after a successful recovery from a hamstring strain, manager Charlie Manuel called Mayberry into his office and sent him on his way to Triple A Lehigh Valley.
"We want Mayberry to keep playing," Manuel said. "We didn't want him to just sit on the bench. That was tough, because I like Mayberry and I played him. Like I told him today after he asked what he needs to do to improve, I told him he needed to hit righthand pitchers, and he'll be getting to play every day, and he'll be getting at-bats and he won't be sitting on the bench. We figured he wouldn't get much playing time [with the Phillies]. He did have options and we didn't want to lose anybody."
With rookie outfielder Domonic Brown in the lineup, Opening Day rightfielder Ben Francisco is now the team's top righthanded pinch-hitter and fill-in outfielder. That meant Mayberry would have had limited at-bats.
And, Manuel said, "He's not ready to just be a pinch-hitter yet."
Mayberry did bring some tools to the bench that the Phillies could miss every now and then. Five times in the Phillies' six games leading into last night, the ninth spot in the order was up in the sixth inning or later with the Phillies tied, trailing by a run, or leading by a run.
With Mayberry gone, Manuel's options in those high-leverage situations will be a lefthanded hitter who has a hip injury and no extra-base hits (Ross Gload), two utility infielders who have on-base percentages below .280 (Wilson Valdez and Martinez), and Francisco.
Of the Phillies' four pinch-hitting options (not including back-up catcher Dane Sardinha, who will rarely be used in that situation), only Francisco has a slugging percentage of over .300. In 213 at-bats this season, before last night, Valdez, Martinez and Gload combined for eight extra-base hits and one home run.
At the same time, the situation is not markedly different from the one the Phillies have played through all season. For most of the first month-and-a-half, the Phillies bench consisted of a lefthanded hitter (Gload), a righthanded hitter (Mayberry) and two utility men (Pete Orr and Martinez) to go with the backup catcher. That's the same situation they have right now. So it isn't as if the bench is dramatically weaker than it has been all season. In fact, with the return of Victorino and the emergence of Domonic Brown, it is probably stronger.
Mayberry hit .345 in April but saw his performance decrease as his playing time increased. In May, when he started 17 games, he hit only .194.
The Phillies are working with the commissioner's office to formulate a plan for rectifying their current non-compliance with baseball's debt-service rules, team president David Montgomery said in a statement yesterday. A report in the Los Angeles Times named the Phillies as one of nine teams who currently in violation of the debt-service rule, which has been a part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement since 2002. The rule essentially ties a team's debt ceiling to its average net income over the previous two seasons. Most teams can carry no amount of debt higher than 10 times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (or, in accounting shorthand EBITDA: revenue minus expenses, excluding interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). Teams that have opened stadiums in the previous 10 years, like the Phillies, can carry debt of no more than 15 times their EBITDA.
In extreme cases, like the Dodgers, teams that fail to comply to the debt-service rule can be assigned an overseer from the commissioner's office. But in most cases, the team simply details to the commissioner its plan for compliance.