Can Phillips avoid the injured list?

The medical update from Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and a brief interview with the injured reliever at his spring training locker made for an easy jump to a roster conclusion.

It felt like more of a hop.

Evan Phillips wasn’t able to pitch because of a sore elbow and headed to Los Angeles for a second opinion. A month or more could pass before he’d be allowed to pick up a ball.

My headline on a March 6 article stated: “Phillips to start season on injured list”

The third paragraph read: “Phillips will have to begin the season on the injured list.”

I didn’t leave the door cracked. It was slammed shut and bolted. I could have slid a dresser in front of it.

This is exactly how it could play out, but the coronavirus pandemic is putting everything on hold. Rosters weren’t set prior to opening day on March 26. Decisions weren’t made regarding the injured list, including the 60-day variety.

Phillips-Delivers-White-ST-sidebar.jpgPhillips hasn’t been cleared to throw, but he’s maintaining a certain level of optimism regarding his future status that didn’t exist at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

Maybe he actually can stay off the IL. Who knows?

“I’d say it’s possible,” he said earlier this week. “It’s hard to say how my throwing program’s going to kick back up and when that start date is and when that date of completion is for my throwing program.

“The unfortunate thing about having to take all this time off is that usually you use that much time to get back into it, so if I take six weeks off of throwing and it takes six more to build back up ... Selfishly, hopefully I get that time so I start the season with the team, and if not, that injured list is still a possibility. But we’ll take it week-to-week and see where we’re at. That’s all we can do for now.”

Phillips grabbed some exercise equipment before the Orioles closed their spring facility, including cuff weights and bands, and he’s got them at the house he’s sharing with relievers Cody Carroll and Tanner Scott.

“I do a shoulder program basically six out of seven days a week,” he said. “It’s just divvied up into two different levels. I do shoulder and elbow exercises and then I’ll do (scapula) exercises, as well. And I’m able to condition, I’m able to do minor lifts.

“I have to be careful about what I do with my arm. I’m still not throwing, so we’re trying to keep the heavy load off my arm as much as possible. I’m able to take care of things to the extent that I need to, and my shoulder care is through the roof. I’m probably stronger than I’ve ever been when it comes to my shoulder strength and mobility, so hopefully when I start throwing ...

“I still don’t have a firm date yet. I know we’re going to take it slow because we have the ability to do so with this situation that we’re in. But hopefully when I do start back up I’ll be fresh and ready to go.”

If Phillips has to adjust his goals, he can strive to avoid the 60-day injured list and force the Orioles to find other ways to clear space on the 40-man roster.

He remembers when the 60-day was probable instead of a possibility, but he didn’t have a clue that a pandemic would shut down the sport.

“I know,” he said. “Things have changed. It’s quite crazy.”

Teams are trying to get ready for a season that they aren’t certain will begin in 2020. And if it does, how it’s going to be constructed. Players have moved away from the friendly confines of spring camp, but must remain on the same page.

They can’t just start from scratch if camps reopen.

“It’s crossed my mind,” Phillips said.

“I think everyone’s taking care of themselves in the best way that they can, and honestly it just feels like an extended version of the offseason right now. I know guys already have had plenty of reps in what was spring training, so hopefully when we come back, guys don’t miss a beat because they’ve continued to practice at that intensity and whatnot.

“So hopefully when we come back and in whatever shape and form we have of spring training, guys are in equally as good of shape as they were when we showed up, because I feel like we all were in a really good spot in camp and hopefully that rolls over into the new spring training and into the season.”

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