You know him, you adore him and Justin De Fratus is back in the J-Bone Zone. The righty reliever joins PhilliesNation.com live and direct, once again, from Clearwater, FL to offer his thoughts from inside Phillies spring training.
The 24-year-old reliever went 6-3 with 15 saves, a 2.99 ERA and 99 strike outs in 75 1/3 innings in his time with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year before making his big league debut in September and holding opponents to a .083 batting average in 5 appearances. Heading forward, De Fratus, an 11th round draft choice in 2007, hopes to be an impact contributor in the Phillies bullpen for years to come.
In the latest edition of The J-Bone Zone, Justin talks about the status of his elbow, what being ranked highly on prospect lists means to him, the team’s mentality on hazing younger players and more. Read ahead for another edition of The J-Bone Zone.
On the status of his improving elbow, which was sore and kept him out of action for a few weeks (Justin began a throwing program a week ago)…
So far, everything feels good. I went out there (on Monday) and did 60 throws and it was fine. It’s hard though, because I want to throw and I really want to get after it, but each time I gotta realize that my goal is to get healthy and not run into the same problem again, so I’m taking it slowly. I didn’t have a long toss program (earlier in spring) because of the elbow soreness, so this is going to be my off-season throwing, pretty much.
On how soon he could see game action and the potential for this set back to have a lasting effect on his season…
I am not sure of exactly when I could pitch in a game. It’s really going to be based off of how I feel and communication with Scott Sheridan, the trainer. Right now it’s kind of a day-to-day thing. Realistically, I would say, for me getting on the mound I would say- a couple weeks.
I don’t think this will have any effect on my full season. I’m not going to get back into games till I’m ready, so we’re not going to take a gamble and make me go before I’m ready. It wasn’t anything major. Once I go, I’ll be healthy, so I don’t think this will effect my season at all.
On the recognition of being ranking #5 for the past two years on PhilliesNation.com’s prospect rankings…
It’s an honor, I’m not going to lie, it’s definitely cool, but it’s something more for my family and friends. They really enjoy seeing that kind of stuff about me. Obviously, my goal isn’t to be ranked on a prospect list, it’s to help the Major League team. It’s definitely cool to see that people are taking note of my work, but the ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues and stay there and help that team win and bring a championship to Philadelphia.
On how long he has dreamed of being a professional baseball player…
This is all I’ve ever wanted to do, as long as I can remember. I mean I played soccer for one year and I hated it. I tried other sports, basketball- I hated it. Baseball is all I’ve ever wanted to do and I’ve been fortunate enough, and God has blessed me with talent, and so far I’ve had enough health and gotten enough breaks that I’ve been able to succeed this far in baseball. So, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. Nothing else ever even crossed my mind for a career path.
On the absence of hazing of young players in spring training…
There’s not much of anything like that. There’s a lot of youngsters up in camp right now, including myself. The veteran guys are really cool. And in talking with a couple of them, I asked them specifically about, “You guys don’t really give anybody a hard time here. What’s the deal with that?” And the answer I got was, “Well, the way we look at it is that you guys are a part of the team and we want you as comfortable as possible because if you’re comfortable, you play well and you help us win.”
So, the goal with our team is to win. And the veteran guys are not going to waste time on hazing guys. They’re all about business and they want to make us as comfortable as possible so that we feel we’re a part of the team and we can play up to our potential.
Now, regarding the once-a-year rookie hazing that goes on with the Phillies each September, above everything else, that’s really about making us part of the team too. It’s really your initiation and that’s welcomed by every rookie. It’s a badge of honor, is what it is. It’s just like that pink back pack…you want to wear it. You don’t look at it as hazing. You think, “This is the way it is. This is how baseball is. This is part of the game.” And as weird as it sounds, I wanted to be in that little dominatrix outfit. That means I’m there!
Check back throughout the preseason for more exclusive content from Justin De Fratus.
Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can read more from Jay by visiting his site, PhoulBallz.com.