KANSAS CITY -- There are many similarities between Mike Zagurski and Alex Gordon. Both are Omaha, Neb., products, were selected in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, went to Big 12 universities and zoomed through the Minor Leagues to make it to the Majors by 2007. It was anticipated Gordon, who the Royals chose as the second overall pick in the 2005 Draft out of the University of Nebraska, would not spend much time in the Minors. However, it was a different story for Zagurski, whom the Phillies chose in the 12th round out of the University of Kansas. Zagurski was called up May 25 when Brett Myers went on the disabled list.
"I think it was a little bit sooner than I had thought," Zagurski said on Friday. "I was hoping to get to Double-A by the end of this year and kind of put my self in contention for a job next year or a September callup next year." Zagurski began the season with Class A Clearwater in the Florida State League, where he logged five saves, had a 1.10 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .113 average in 16 1/3 innings. He moved up to Double-A Reading, where he had a 1.29 ERA and gave up just two hits in seven innings. Combined, he had a 1.15 ERA and struck out 38 in 23 1/3 innings while holding hitters to a .104 average. "I think I was throwing the ball a little bit better than I had anticipated, and probably everybody had anticipated or even I could imagine," Zagurski said. Zagurski went to Hutchinson (Kan.) Junior College for two years and then signed with Kansas. He remembers facing Gordon in college. "That guy in the other dugout is pretty darn good," Zagurski said. "He got me pretty good in college. In like two years, he hit three home runs off of me. I think he was doing that pretty much to everybody, though." While Gordon was drafted after his junior season, Zagurski was a senior draftee. He went back to KU, which is in Lawrence, about 40 miles from Kauffman Stadium, in the offseason and finished his degree with a major in communications and a minor in sports management. Zagurski picked up his first Major League win on Thursday against the Mets in his sixth appearance, working a scoreless inning in the Phillies' 10-inning 6-3 victory. "This year I've been throwing quite a few strikes, been getting ahead of guys, forcing guys to swing at some pitches that maybe they don't swing at if they're ahead in the count," he said. While the Phillies had not played at Kansas City since the 1980 World Series, this was not Zagurski's first time at Kauffman Stadium. "I've seen quite a few games here. Growing up, I'd catch at least a game a year here with my parents, coming down from Nebraska," he said. "It's a beautiful ballpark." National League preference: Charlie Manuel managed two and a half seasons with the Indians before becoming the Phillies skipper before the 2005 season, so he knows the ins and outs of managing in both leagues and using the designated hitter. "I like the National League better," Manuel said. "I think it is more baseball. Your bench comes more into play. Change of pitchers comes into play. It is more strategy. "In the American League, I like the idea you can have a set lineup. A starting pitcher, you can leave him in there longer. That is to your advantage. If you have a weak pitching staff and your big pitcher [is starting] and if the game is 3-1, 4-2, you don't have to pinch-hit for him. Each [league] has advantages and disadvantages. It depends on the talent." Burrell DH: Pat Burrell, who homered in the ninth inning to send the game into extra innings on Thursday, was the designated hitter in the series opener. "When you say you don't like being a DH and you have a good day or two, believe me, you'll change your mind," Manuel said. "The first day he comes to the ballpark and gets a couple of hits and hits a homer, he'll love DH-ing. You can ask [David] Ortiz or [Jim] Thome, when they first started DH-ing and go two or three days and they don't get a hit, they're upset. All of a sudden they get two or three hits or a couple of home runs, and it is, 'Oh man, this is good, I like this job.'" Drafting in-state: The Phillies selected four players from Pennsylvania on Friday during the second day of the Draft, including two from LaSalle University. Right-hander Gerald Breslin and catcher Rich Prall both were first-team All-Atlantic 10 selections the past two years. Breslin, a 23rd-round pick, went 9-for-10 in save opportunities, while Prall, who went in the 33rd round, hit .332. The Phils also drafted right-handed pitcher Richard Austin in the 27th round, the first player ever selected from Seton Hill, an NAIA school. Austin logged 238 strikeouts in 256 innings in college. In the 18th round, Philadelphia chose Mark Adzick of William Penn Charter High School of Haverford, Penn. On deck: Right-hander Jon Lieber will start against Royals righty Gil Meche in the second game of the series on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.