The Phillies last week signed infielder Marcus Giles to a minor league contract. The 30-year-old Giles was the Braves starting second baseman from 2003-06, finishing 16th in MVP voting in ’03 while securing an All-Star berth. He signed with the Padres in 2007, but struggled with a .229 average in 116 games. The Padres released him, and the Rockies signed him in 2008, but cut him in Spring Training. The Dodgers gave him a minor league deal, but he dropped out of the deal before showing up. The Phillies are giving Giles a shot to make the big club in 2009, despite him not playing baseball in a year. His deal became official yesterday.
Phillies Nation interviewed Giles about the newest chapter in his career. Here are some of the questions and answers from that interview:
PN: You didn’t play baseball in 2008, turning down a minor league deal with the Dodgers after being cut by the Rockies. Why did you turn down the Dodgers deal?
Giles: I decided not to play in 2008 because I felt I had lost “the fire” required to play the game right. My mind simply wasn’t where it needed to be, and I think I made the right decision at the time. While I realize it hurt my career in the short term, it gave me time to do what I needed to do to come back and be the player I know I’m capable of being. I’m confident I’ve done that, both mentally and physically, and am really anxious to get to Florida for spring training.
PN: How did you keep yourself conditioned over the year?
Giles: I started working out really hard in July with my trainer, Mike Douglass. Mike’s a former NFL linebacker, and there’s no slacking with him around. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’ve been hitting and taking ground balls, and feel really good with all the baseball stuff, too.
PN: What were the main reasons for choosing to sign with the Phillies? How much did Chase Utley’s injury (opening a potential starting second base spot) play in your decision?
Giles: I know there are a bunch of good guys on the Phillies. I’m sure the guys are going to help me feel at home right away, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to get back at it.
I’m certainly not looking at this as coming there to challenge Chase. He’s one of the best players in the game. The Phillies were looking to strengthen their bench, and I guess to protect themselves a little given Chase’s situation, and my agent talked with Ruben [Amaro Jr.] about my desire to play at the Winter Meetings. I worked out right after the holidays for Charlie Kerfeld, and we got it done. I really appreciate the opportunity the Phillies have given me.
PN: Considering Charlie Manuel’s penchant for veteran hitters, are you confident in your chances to reach for and retain a 25-man roster spot throughout 2009?
Giles: I’m confident the opportunity is there, and it’s up to me to go to spring training and prove I can be an asset.
PN: Jason Donald is a highly touted infield prospect in the system; surely you’ll be working with him in Spring Training. Have you heard anything about him?
Giles: I know Jason’s got a chance to be an outstanding player, and I look forward to getting to know him. Maybe I can help him some, and maybe he can help me!
PN: You had considerable experience with Philadelphia fans in the past. Are they really as annoying as other athletes say?
Giles: I love the passion of Phillies fans, and I hope they’ll love mine. If I play well, I’m sure they’ll be behind me. They haven’t been annoying to me, and I’d like to keep it that way!
PN: Your former teammate, Chipper Jones, spoke out against the small amount of “trash talk” between Mets and Phillies players regarding their rivalry. As a Brave when treating the Mets as rivals, did you ever feel the need to speak volatile against New York?
Giles: I really haven’t been involved in much of that kind of stuff. I’ve always tried to play the game the right way against everybody, and plan to keep doing it that way.
PN: As a Phillie, do you like entering a situation such as this?
Giles: I feel very fortunate to be coming back with the defending World Champions. I always loved the atmosphere when we were winning regularly in Atlanta, knowing that every game means something. I want to win a spot on the Phillies roster, and be a part of that again.