Mike Zagurski, a lefty reliever with the Phillies in 2007, had Tommy John surgery last year, missing the entire season. He is now on his way back up through the minors as he builds arm strength and gets back to form. Mike is currently pitching with the double A Reading Phillies. I spoke with Mike during Reading's visit to Trenton recently. Here's how that went down.
Mike, can you tell me what it was like the first time you were called up to the big club?
It was nice. It was something that, everyone that plays this game, the ultimate goal is to get there. So it was nice, a good experience. Now I'm just trying to get back.
Talk about the rehab process and how tough that has been for you.
It's been okay. It's better now that I'm finally on a team and playing a little bit. It had its moments in Florida where days got pretty monotonous, ya know, days were it got kind of frustrating where you wouldn't want to do your rehab part of it. But it's all part of the process and hopefully, it's behind me and something I can look back on and maybe think it's something that made me a little bit better player.
What have you learned from the coaching staff in Reading that's helped you so far this year?
I've learned a lot from them actually. I had the pitching coach (Steve) Schrenk, in low A and high A for my first two full seasons. Frank Cacciatore, the new hitting guy, I've talked to him about what certain hitters might be looking for in a certain count and things like that. And "Roady" (Steve Roadcap), as a manager, this is his 25th year maybe, 23rd year I think he said. So, just his perspective on how he manages the game and how he goes about it is just different than we I had PJ (Forbes) my first time (in Reading).
Is there an expected time frame for you, when you expect to be back up in the Majors?
(Laughs) Ya know, I don't know. I don't know the exact time table. My goal is to hopefully pitch this whole year healthy, and at some point, if the situation arises and they need somebody, if I'm throwing the ball well, they'll consider me for the job, and hopefully I'll have some success and hopefully stay up there this time.
Who was the biggest help while you were injured?
I think it starts with the family and stuff. With them supporting me along the way, knowing that (I was) going through some hard times. It made it a little easier on (me), from my parents to my girlfriend. I was fortunate. I was down there (in Florida) with Sam Walls and Scott Mathieson and we all kind of went through it together. We knew where each person was at, at that point in their rehab and we all kind of fed off each other. We found a way to try to not make it so repetitive, I guess, every day of doing rehab seven days a week.
With the success of the Reading staff this year, do you think there's anyone on the staff who is underrated?
I think it starts with our five starters. Our five starters, I think you'd have a hard time finding a better 5 maybe in all of minor league baseball. As a staff from a prospect stand point, getting outs, they're awfully good. I wouldn't want to say none of them are overrated or underrated, but I think they're all pretty good. I think maybe none of them get the credit they deserve, with the exception of Drabek, I think people are starting to see that he is that first round pick that they thought he was. But those other four starters all throw the ball pretty well.
Where were you and who were you with watching game 5 of the World Series last year?
I was at game 5 of the World Series. I was there with my brother, my girlfriend, for the first part of the game in the rain and stuff. (Then) I was back in Florida actually watching with Scott Mathieson, another guy that was injured, we watched the last few innings of it.
How many mascots does Reading have and why are there so many?
That's a great question. There's a baseball, a dog....(laughs), they got a whole band, they got a chicken, I think. There's gotta be about four of 'em, I guess and the reason why is- "your guess is as good as mine".
And lastly, with the recent passing of the King of Pop...what's your favorite Michael Jackson song?
Thriller. No doubt.