ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Rookie right-hander Evan Phillips grew up dreaming about pitching for the Orioles and spent the past three years working his way up through the Atlanta Braves minor league system, so he had some understandably mixed feelings when he found out he was being traded to Baltimore earlier this week.
“I was very shocked,” he said. “I was very surprised about it. I was just a huge Orioles fan growing up, so it’s a dream come true in ways and heartbreaking in others. I’m just very excited to be here and my family was very happy to hear about the news. We really didn’t think I’d be traded, but we were very excited when we found out it was to Baltimore.”
Phillips, 23, hasn’t gotten to Baltimore yet, but he joined the Orioles on Friday to fill out the bullpen after the club placed Jhan Mariñez on the 10-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain.
He didn’t waste any time making a good first impression. He came into Friday night’s game at Globe Life Park in the fifth inning and pitched two perfect frames in his Orioles debut, striking out three batters.
Phillips is the fourth player acquired in the Orioles’ flurry of deadline deals to be called up to the major league club. Reliever Cody Carroll and infielder Jonathan Villar arrived earlier and infielder Breyvic Valera already has come and gone back to Triple-A Norfolk.
“The past week’s been a whirlwind,” Phillips said. “It’s been a crazy past few days, especially traveling from Atlanta up to Charlotte to meet up with Norfolk and back to Atlanta to catch my flight up here. So, it’s been a heck of a few days, but I’m really excited to be here and happy to do whatever I can to help this team win.”
Though Phillips spent his formative years in North Carolina, he was born in Salisbury and spent the first years of his life in Ocean City. When he makes his first appearance, he’ll be the 25th Maryland-born player to play in majors with the Orioles since 1954, so now they have full historical homegrown roster.
“Growing up, Cal Ripken Jr., favorite baseball player of all time,” he said. “I wore No. 8 as long as I could before single-digit numbers for pitchers became not cool. I grew up in North Carolina, so I went to games as often as I could, whenever we were up visiting family for a vacation or things like that, but Camden Yards is my favorite ballpark of all time and I’m really excited to pitch there.”
If it looks like the Orioles are in a hurry to bring up as many of the newly acquired players as possible, manager Buck Showalter said Friday that Phillips might be the last of the trade pickups to come up for a while. The players who have been called up so far have either been in the majors for significant time or were close to being called up.
Phillips was the most advanced of the four players who were dealt to the Orioles for starting pitcher Kevin Gausman and veteran reliever Darren O’Day.
“I think [we called up] the ones that are equipped to do it,” Showalter said. “Evan has pitched in the big leagues. … I know Aaron [Boone] said they were really kind of trumpeting Cody’s promotion a couple of times. They really liked him. In fact, they talked about him a lot this spring.”
Phillips got his first major league experience with the Braves earlier this season, appearing in four games, allowing six runs and three homers in 6 1/3 innings for an 8.53 ERA.
“I got my feet wet,” he said. “My first appearance at Yankee Stadium was incredible. I mentioned after that game that that’s just the first one. Let’s get that one out of the way. Then I had a rough one in Milwaukee, but after that one in Milwaukee I feel I got into a good groove and I feel like I’m going to carry that one into the organization with the Orioles.”
He obviously is a young man with a lot of confidence, which will come in handy in a suddenly young Orioles bullpen.
“When I’m at my best, obviously, I think I can be a late-inning guy for the Orioles or whatever they need me to do,” he said. “I’ve thrown multiple innings in the past. If I need to be a long-relief, middle-relief, later-in-the-game kind of guy, whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.”