Orioles sign reliever Zach Phillips

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles have signed left-hander Zach Phillips to a major league deal and designated Chris Jones for assignment, providing an insurance policy for their bullpen.

Phillips took his physical last night and was re-introduced to the media this morning in an informal interview session. This is a reunion for Phillips, who pitched for the Orioles in 2011 and 2012 after being acquired from the Rangers in July 2011. He went 0-0 with a 3.21 ERA in 16 appearances.

Phillips, 29, elected free agency last week after the White Sox removed him from the 40-man roster. The Orioles, concerned about the status of lefty Brian Matusz, reached out to him.

Matusz received a cortisone injection in his lower back on Sunday and is expected to land on the disabled list. He’s been bothered by a strained muscle that’s limited him to two appearances.

Phillips-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgPhillips has been throwing and said he’s ready to pitch. He said that he last appeared in a game about five days ago.

“It feels normal,” Phillips said of his return to the organization. “A lot of the same guys, Buck (Showalter) is still here. It’s awesome and a great feeling.

“I’ve always wanted to come back here and I thought it was a great time to. Just being familiar with Baltimore and them giving me a chance. I’ve always liked it here and thought it would be good to come back.”

Phillips, the last cut in camp in 2012, said he hasn’t been tracking the Orioles and Matusz’s health issue.

“I just stay out of that stuff,” he said. “I only worry about myself and I just try to stay healthy. I just stick to myself and wherever I am at that point, that’s it.

“My agent kind of mentioned something (about Matusz). I still don’t know what’s going on. I’m here for whatever they need and I’m going to try to stay healthy and pitch whenever they need me.”

The Orioles haven’t said much about his opportunity here.

“I just got a locker,” he said, “so I’m starting there.”

Phillips pitched for Triple-A Charlotte last season in the Chicago White Sox organization, going 1-1 with a 3.13 ERA, 12 saves and 64 strikeouts over 46 relief appearances. In 365 career minor league games (98 starts), Phillips has gone 39-45 with a 3.85 ERA, 33 saves and 843 strikeouts. He spent part of the 2014 season in Japan, going 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in nine games with the Hiroshima Carp.

Phillips last pitched in the majors for the Marlins in 2013. In 19 major league games, he’s gone 0-1 with a 3.45 ERA in 15 2/3 innings.

For now, Phillips is wearing No. 74.

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