There were veteran names like J.D. Durbin and Rick Bauer available to the Phillies. Young pitchers like Joe Bisenius or possibly even J.A. Happ were also keeping their cell phones handy. Instead, the Phillies decided to use Myers' loss as an opportunity to give an audition for both issues, the Phillies decided to call out a surprise name to fill Myers' spot; Mike Zagurski.
Zagurski is a young left-hander, drafted in the 12th round of the 2005 Draft, who has moved quickly through the system. He becomes the first member of the Phillies' class of 2005 to reach the majors and they're hoping it's more than just a quick visit. If Zagurski can provide anything like what he's done in the minors, the Phillies hopes of a long-term stay could well come true.
In the 2005 Draft, the Phillies used four of their first eleven picks to take left-handers (Matt Maloney, Davis Blaine, Josh Outman and Zagurski) as they fought to fill an organizational need. All four were college starting pitchers, but Zagurski was converted to the bullpen where the Phillies thought that his pitches and mentality would be put to better use. After a season in Batavia's rotation, Zagurski was promoted to Lakewood last season and pitched in a relief role for the first time in his career and seemed to take to the role like a duck takes to water. Zagurski was a key part of the BlueClaws' bullpen that helped to lead Lakewood to the South Atlantic League Championship last season.
As for his "stuff", Zagurski doesn't overpower hitters, throwing his fastball primarily in the mid to upper 80s. He mixes that with a quality slider that he uses primarily against left-handers. One of the things that drew the Phillies to Zagurski was his work ethic and the fact that he had become a leader on the Kansas Jayhawks teams that he was a member of when the Phillies were doing their scouting for the draft. His coaches talked a lot about his character and saw a lot of potential for Zagurski as a pro. While some think he projects best as a situational left-hander, the Phillies believe that he can develop into a reliever who can do more than handle just lefties. In his stops at Clearwater and Reading this season, left-hander were hitting .227 (5-for-22) against Zagurski while righties managed a scant .055 (3-for-55) against him.
The question is whether Zagurski is ready for the majors. In all honesty, the jury is out on that and odds are that he could probably use some more work in the minors. For now though, he's an interesting choice and the Phillies threw him right into the fray Friday night against Atlanta and he responded with a perfect inning of work. He credits Geoff Geary with helping him to get through the first inning as he put Geary's advice to step off the mound and enjoy the moment with settling him down. Zagurski was wild during his warm-up pitches, but Geary's advice and Zagurski's mentality and talent got him through the inning in an impressive manner.
Audio Extra: Hear former Lakewood broadcaster Ben Wagner talk about Mike Zagurski: