Pham eager to contribute in reserve role

March 17th, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Mets outfielder is in his 10th big league season and he finds himself in a role that he hasn’t been in since he was a young player with the Cardinals: He is coming off the bench as the fourth outfielder. He will fill in for Mark Canha and Starling Marte whenever they need a break in the action.

Pham, 35, still looks at himself as a starter and he plans to prepare for every game as such. The reason for this philosophy is that he doesn’t want to be caught off-guard whenever manager Buck Showalter calls on him to get into the game. Pham felt this way ever since he played for St. Louis under then-manager Mike Matheny.

“If Mike Matheny ever went up to me and said, ‘Hey, you are in,’ I was never caught off-guard as far as preparation," Pham said. "I always want to have that edge. I’m preparing as a starter just in case something happens. Mentally, I’m not thrown off, or if someone goes down, I feel like I’m ready.”

On Friday, Pham called former Major League outfielder Curtis Granderson to not only wish him a belated happy birthday, but to get his take on coming off the bench.

Granderson -- who played most of his career as a starting center fielder with the Tigers, Yankees and Mets but was a fourth outfielder in his final seasons with the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Marlins -- gave Pham some sage advice: “Don’t put any pressure on yourself.”

“[Granderson] said, ‘Make sure Buck and everybody else have transparency with you. There are no surprises or anything like that.’ I’m just going to prepare every day, work hard and try to do my best so that I can help the team win and still prove that I can play this game at a high level,” Pham said.

Despite getting off to a slow start this spring (4-for-30 entering Friday’s action), Pham has left a positive impression on Showalter.

“He is leading our club in plate appearances,” Showalter said. “He is dwarfing everybody. Every time he doesn’t play [in a Major League game], he goes in [the back fields] getting at-bats.

“He is everything I heard about. He is a good teammate. Works very hard at his trade. He is in great shape. He takes care of himself. He is very focused, serious, but serious about the right things. He has that gruff exterior, but you can talk to him easily. If you don’t want to know what’s on his mind, don’t ask him. He is going to tell you. I kind of like that.”

How long Pham will play in the big leagues is anybody’s guess, but he says he would like to play Major League Baseball for five more years.

“That’s one of my personal goals,” Pham said about playing past 2023. “I still feel like I can play this game at a high level.

“That’s what drives me. It drives me crazy because athletically, I’m still testing with great numbers. [The Mets] are seeing it here in the weight room. That’s kind of like self-motivation. I still feel like I can contribute even more than my role right now.”