When right-hander Evan Phillips arrived at the Orioles’ team hotel in Houston after his early-morning flight from Columbus, Ohio, he made sure to mention to the bellhop helping him how heavy his bag was. It, like Phillips, has made its share of voyages from minor league cities to major league ones.
Phillips, 24, rejoined the Orioles on Saturday with the team needing an extra reliever in the wake of Friday’s 11-inning loss to the Houston Astros. It’s the fourth time he’s been called up from Triple-A Norfolk this season. The hope is to pitch well enough to avoid being sent back a fourth time.
“I’ve been a part of transitions like that in the past, and I think it’s my job to be ready, so I can’t get caught up in the travel or the up and down and the frustrations that go along with that,” Phillips said. “I just need to be prepared to make good pitches here and get guys out.”
Before Saturday, Phillips’ most recent call-up came while the Orioles were in Colorado late last month. Aware they could need an arm at any time in chilly Denver, Phillips embarked on a road trip with Norfolk that same weekend to the Atlanta area, where the temperature was in the mid-90s, with long sleeves and a jacket in his suitcase. He keeps a sport coat, dress shirts and a steamer with him, too, because he’ll need them for team flights with the Orioles, though they’re not necessities on minor league bus rides.
“I pretty much travel with everything I could possibly need,” Phillips said. “I try to stay always ready just in case that call comes.”
That preparation hasn’t always led to results. Phillips did not allow a run in spring training, started the season with Norfolk and then posted a 3.24 ERA in his first six major league appearances of 2019. But he had a 13.49 ERA in the following six. Meanwhile, he has a 0.84 ERA in seven outings with the Tides.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said the biggest difference in Phillips between the levels is his command; Phillips has walked three in 10 2/3 Triple-A innings, but he’s issued 11 walks in 13 innings with the Orioles. That perhaps is a symptom of a greater problem: Phillips is still trying to get comfortable in the majors.
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“I go down there, and I feel like I can let my shoulders hang a little bit,” Phillips said. “I feel like I’m comfortable, and so I think it can be a little bit of added pressure that I’m putting on myself by being in front of a big crowd or being in a big-pressure situation where it’s just me developing that pressure on myself, so I think going down there, I really tried to focus on what that feels like to be comfortable and try to make that transition here instead of adding unnecessary pressure on myself.”
One of Phillips’ four call-ups came as the 26th man in a doubleheader, and the one in Colorado did not even last 24 hours. This one comes with the Orioles needing a fresh arm. They optioned right-hander Branden Kline after Friday night’s defeat, with Hyde saying it was a move based on need rather than performance, though Kline has allowed runs in five straight outings.
Phillips, meanwhile, has been splitting a two-bedroom apartment in Baltimore with fellow right-hander Josh Lucas, but the Orioles have yet to have a full homestand with both of them on the roster at the same time.
Phillips hopes this time he gets to stick around long enough to find out how they handle the living arrangement.
Hays promoted to Triple-A
Austin Hays is getting his first taste of Triple-A.
The 23-year-old outfielder was promoted to Norfolk from Double-A Bowie on Saturday. Working his way back from a left thumb sprain suffered late in spring training, Hays hit .268/.328/.518 in 14 games with the Baysox.