Originally posted on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 4/2/12

The fan favorite known to his family and friends as “J-Bone” is back with another inside look at his progress to begin a new season. Right-handed reliever Justin De Fratus shares his thoughts, exclusively with PhilliesNation.com once again, from Clearwater, FL.

The 24-year-old hurler, who was selected in the 11th round of the 2007 draft, 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, a native of Oxnard, CA, hopes to be an impact contributor in the Phillies bullpen for years to come.

In the latest edition of The J-Bone Zone, Justin discusses his recovery from elbow soreness this spring, his plans to compete in game action, the always dreaded cuts days in minor league camp and much more. Read ahead to get in the Zone.

On the current state of his right elbow, which kept him out of action for roughly a month…

I feel really good. I feel as close to normal, if not as normal as I can. I feel completely healthy right now. And this is a little bit of a spring training, since I didn’t get one. I’ve thrown two bullpens so far and they’ve been good. The ball’s coming out well. I haven’t thrown any breaking pitches yet. I’ve been throwing all fastballs. It’s been going good and I am excited with where I am right now.

On what he’ll be doing to progress forward…

I am going to throw another bullpen of all fastballs (on Monday) and then I will begin to throw some breaking balls after that. I still have a couple more bullpen sessions before I face hitters in a live (batting practice). Things are going to start happening quickly now, and we’re going to treat it just like we would any spring training. I expect to be throwing breaking balls pretty soon and I don’t see any problems coming up again, so I should be back in a couple weeks.

If everything goes as planned, I should be throwing in games within two to three weeks. As far as when I’ll be headed back to Lehigh, I don’t know. But, I do know that I’ll probably throw in a couple extended (spring training) games and maybe even make a stop with the Threshers for a little bit, before I head up north. That’s the plan right now. But, as far as knowing exactly when I’m going to be active, that’s up to my arm and when the team decides when they want to send me up north.

On if he feels any level of disappointment, as the Phillies have come north, with getting a late start this year, due to the elbow issue…

I think the disappointment is gone already. I’ve crossed that bridge already, but there definitely was. To be as honest as possible, this off-season, I was preparing to come into camp to win (a big league) job. I was coming to spring training to win that job. I knew I had a great opportunity to win a spot in that bullpen, so when I started feeling the issue in my arm, I had a decision to make. Should I try to get through it and try to make the team? Or, what would be the smart thing, think of the long run and pretty much concede the chance to make the team, and let it go, and have my chance later in the year.

For sure, I was completely disappointed. It was out of my control. It’s not like I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing in the off-season. I was literally training for my job and that’s when I started feeling issues. I don’t worry about it now though. The only thing I see now is- a few more weeks, and then I’m back on the hill. If everything goes the way it should, I totally expect to be back in the major leagues at some point this year.

On cut days in minor league camp…

It’s easily the worst time of the year, any time you see one of your boys go. It’s just an end to their dream, you know? And that’s the time for a major crossroads in some of their lives where they have to think, “Well, do I want to keep chasing the dream?”

It’s just the worst, when you see somebody get called in. We all know when it’s going to happen. And usually, you have an idea if you’re a guy that’s on the bubble. For me, I was nervous the first couple of times. But after a couple of seasons where I did have success, and getting good feedback, I was able to relax a little more, when it came to release days and that kind of stuff. You’re never sure. It’s still an uneasy feeling when you’re walking into the complex or you see people calling guys into the office.

Justin’s advice to last minute fantasy baseball drafters…

Don’t pick me! I don’t know how that works. I have never played that stuff. But my advice is to try and pick your favorite players, because that’s who you’ll end up watching and regardless of if you win, at least you get to follow your favorite players.

Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for more exclusive content as we follow Justin into his 2012 season.
________________________________________________________

Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can read more from Jay by visiting his site, PhoulBallz.com.

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