Tonight’s starter Evan Phillips on improvements he made at Triple-A

Right-hander Evan Phillips last pitched in a game for the Orioles on Aug. 15. He last pitched in a game for anybody on Sept. 2, when he threw a scoreless inning with two strikeouts for Triple-A Norfolk. Tonight he’s the starting pitcher for the Orioles against Toronto. We’ll see how long he can go and how well he can pitch.

The Maryland native, born in Salisbury, was acquired by the Orioles on July 31 in the trade that sent Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta. The next day, he threw a scoreless inning for Norfolk. Two days he later, he threw two scoreless innings for the Orioles at Texas on 25 pitches, showing a fastball that touched 95 mph.

But after two scoreless outings with the Orioles, he gave up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings in his next two games. Back to the farm he went. There he pitched in seven more games at Triple-A. In his eight Norfolk games, Phillips had an ERA of 3.38 and walked three with 13 strikeouts over 10 2/3 innings.

He worked on the mental and physical aspects of the game and the Orioles added him back on the roster on Friday.

Orioles bags.jpg“You know, when I went back down with Norfolk, I really got myself back on my feet,” Phillips said. “Got comfortable again on the mound. I came up and I think I tried to do too much. Wanted to impress and show myself off to the Orioles community. So I went back down with Norfolk and really got myself back to who I am and now I’m excited to be back here to finish up the year strong.

“Fastball command is the root of everything for me. Being able to throw the fastball for strikes whenever I want to. That really plays off how I throw my sliders and changeup off of that. So getting my fastball command under control was a very important step.”

Phillips spent the first few years of his life in Ocean City, Md., before his family moved to North Carolina. When he joined the Orioles in Texas, he told us that the Iron Man is his all-time favorite.

“Growing up, Cal Ripken Jr. was my favorite player of all time,” Phillips said. “I wore No. 8 as long as I could until single-digit numbers for pitchers became not cool. I grew up in North Carolina and we went to games as often as we could, whenever we were up visiting family. Camden Yards is my favorite ballpark of all time and I’m real excited to pitch there.”

Phillips went threw a whirlwind of a few days there he was traded to Baltimore, pitching both in the minors and majors in his first three days with the organization.

“There was a lot going on and a lot of factors that made it difficult to get acclimated quickly,” he said. “And, like I said, I was trying to press a little bit too much. I think settling myself back down, you know, it’s just a game out there. Try to play catch with the catcher and really take it from there.”

Now he and all of the young pitchers in the clubhouse know the value of every game they get to pitch in. They are planting seeds for their future with a rebuilding team.

“We have a lot of talent here,” said Phillips. “A lot of talent means a lot of competition. So coming into the next few years, you will see a lot of talent coming up during spring training, early on in the season. Lot of guys getting opportunities and I think that will do well for the Orioles. Everyone knows what’s going on here and it’s exciting for everybody.”

So Phillips has a simple goal for the remaining games.

“I want to continue to be myself,” he said. “I went down there in Norfolk and found myself again. I just want to replicate those things. Obviously, results are something I really can’t control, so what I started to work on is the mental side of the game and my preparation. How I can go into my appearances. There are certain things out there on the mound you just can’t do anything about. As long as I can control the things I can control, I’ll be fine.”

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