Dodgers pitcher Evan Phillips established himself as a top reliever in baseball last year, but he’s just going about his business as usual this spring.
Dodgers pitcher Evan Phillips didn’t have the smoothest of starts to his big-league career. He came up with the Braves in 2018 and got knocked around, posting an 8.53 ERA in 6.1 innings before being traded to the Orioles at the trade deadline. He was even worse for Baltimore, allowing 11 earned runs in 5.1 innings for an 18.56 ERA.
Phillips was back with Baltimore in 2019 and 2020, and he was better, but still not good. His 5.95 ERA in 42.1 innings between those two seasons basically caused the Orioles to give up on him, and he spent most of the 2021 season in Triple-A before Baltimore released him in early August. The Rays picked him up, but after just three innings in the big leagues, they designated him for assignment.
The Dodgers claimed Phillips off waivers from Tampa Bay, and the rest is basically history. Phillips pitched well for Los Angeles in seven late-season appearances, then he really made a name for himself in the postseason, striking out six batters in three shutout innings against the Braves in the NLCS.
All of which led up to 2022, when Phillips established himself as one of the top relievers in baseball. The righty pitched 63 innings and posted an unbelievable 1.14 ERA, striking out 77 batters and walking just 15. Under the tutelage of LA pitching coach Mark Prior, Phillips’ slider became one of the most devastating pitches in baseball.
Phillips recently talked with Doug McKain of Dodgers Nation, and McKain asked the 28-year-old about coming into a new season with a reputation around the league as a top reliever.
“You know, I’m trying not to to notice it. I still think of myself the same way I did last year. I just want to go out there and do what I can on a day-to-day basis to help us win. I think keeping that external mindset has really helped my personal goals stay out of the way. Obviously, I’m very thrilled to be in the position I am now, but in my opinion, I think there’s still more plenty more I can do.”
Phillips admits that his early struggles made it hard to become the pitcher he has, but the confidence the Dodgers showed in him helped him overcome that.
“When I first got here, I was dealing with a lot of self-doubt and confidence issues from being where I was, in the position I put myself in. So coming to this team and putting on this uniform, that alone should give you confidence, so these guys believed in me from day one, they believed what I could be, and we stuck to that process and they laid out a blueprint and said, ‘Hey, if you can check off these boxes and do these things, we think you can have success,’ and I think we proved that last year.”
Yeah, it’s safe to say Phillips proved a few things in 2022. Can he repeat that performance in 2023? He has the confidence and the stuff, so the odds are in his favor.