ARLINGTON, Texas - Brett Phillips is a bundle of energy. As if there’s a switch that’s jammed in the “on” position.
Judging by his reputation, he’s probably the one who jammed it.
The huge smile never left Phillips’ face yesterday as he greeted his new Orioles teammates, club employees and the media. He embraced reliever Joey Krehbiel, who attended the same high school in Seminole, Fla. He expressed gratitude to manager Brandon Hyde for the opportunity and vowed to do anything the club needed from him.
Moving 100 mph even from a seated position. It’s quite a show. But it’s also genuine.
What exactly is the source of this energy?
“Oh man, it’s nonstop,” he said from the visiting dugout at Globe Life Field, after hopping on top of the bench.
“A source, I couldn’t put a finger on, but this is just who I’ve always been. You guys will get to know that real quick, that what you see is what you get. If I’m ever frowning, you know something must be really upset, because I’m getting to play major league baseball, and perspective-wise, there’s nothing in this game that can not …
“I love showing up to the ballpark. How can I not? Just so blessed. I think that’s where all my energy stems from.”
At its highest setting.
“To say the least,” Hyde said, laughing.
“I loved it. He’s excited to be here. We had a great talk in my office. He just came as advertised. He’s going to give you everything he’s got. I’ve been on the other side of the dugout from him for quite a while, from his Milwaukee days to here recently when he was with Tampa. You can feel the energy. He plays super hard.
“You look at the Tampa highlights against us, he’s high-fiving, he’s out on the on-deck circle practically when guys score. He’s just into the game and excited for teammates, and we’re excited to have him.”
The Orioles got Phillips from his hometown Rays at the deadline in a cash transaction. They wanted his plus speed and his defense. They wanted his left-handed bat, though he’s only a career .190/.276/.350 hitter in parts of six major league seasons.
They also wanted the makeup that’s made him such a popular teammate and a media favorite – though that last part probably didn’t influence the move.
Phillips walked inside the clubhouse and went from locker to locker, pausing to shake hands with a member of the public relations staff. He asked John Means about his recovery from Tommy John surgery – in a related story, Means lives in Texas and was with the team for three days – and leaned forward to shake Félix Bautista’s hand before the new closer stood and towered over him.
Phillips may wish that he could keep facing the Orioles rather than dressing with them. He’s batting .270/.400/.573 against them, with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 40 games, and he owns a .355 on-base percentage and .537 slugging with four doubles, a triple, three home runs and 11 RBIs in 22 games at Camden Yards.
“I think I see the ball really well in Baltimore,” he said. “I have a good feel in the box there. The Baltimore pitching, obviously it’s turned around. It was a nightmare facing these guys, especially the back end guys like Bautista and Lopey (Jorge López), who got traded, but all these guys.
“I recognize the plan that these guys have, I’m looking forward to hearing what information is being given, because it’s night and day, it’s really exciting what’s going on.”
López, a close friend, walked out the door before Phillips could enter it.
“Jorge’s one of my guys, playing with him in Milwaukee and Kansas City, but that’s baseball,” Phillips said. “He’s off to bigger and better things, just as I am here, and I know he’s going to take advantage of his opportunity.”
Phillips arrived at Globe Life Field and immediately went into Hyde’s office. Get acquainted fast. The only pace Phillips knows.
“I told him whatever opportunity he had for me, I’m going to be ready,” Phillips said. “Expectations are I’m going to play hard. And he’s like, ‘I see that.’ Obviously, playing in the East, they’ve seen me a lot. I’m thankful that Mike (Elias) and the front office have valued me enough to want to trade for me, and come in here with a contending team, it’s going to be fun. I can feel it.”
A contending team. Swirl those words in your mouths. It’s been a while.
“It’s been a whirlwind of emotions,” Phillips said. “First time going through that DFA process. But I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, and for me, this is where God has me and I’m going to come in here and bring the energy. Through all those emotions the last day or two, I really am excited to be a Baltimore Oriole.”
Before his hiring as Orioles executive vice president/general manager, Mike Elias was the Astros’ director of amateur scouting when they drafted Phillips in the sixth round in 2012. The men had a history before reaching this point in the present.
“I’ve seen Mike along the way, and when he left Houston and got this opportunity here, I was super pumped for him. As he should. He’s a very smart man and knows what he’s doing,” Phillips said.
“Obviously, the track record, it shows that, and how the boys are playing this year, the team he’s put together. Looking forward to furthering that relationship and getting to know him more now that he’s the GM. Very excited to be under Mike, for sure, as a player.”
Phillips, 28, will have a chance to share the outfield with Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays. The glove work will be must-see viewing.
“Studs, absolute studs,” Phillips said. “Me being a defense-first kind of guy, I respect the heck out of other guys who go and get it and take a lot of pride in their defensive work, and these guys in this outfield do exactly that. So, playing next to them is going to be fun, and we’re going to save a lot of runs for our boys.”
Note: Double-A Bowie pitcher Zach Peek and high Single-A Aberdeen’s Seth Johnson underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, with both procedures handled by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas.
Johnson was acquired from the Rays in the three-team deal that sent Trey Mancini to the Astros.