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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

7/7/24 : The Phillips Debut

We’ve been touting RHP Tyler Phillips practically since the first time we met him at the Complex in 2022.  He was just coming off of TJ surgery at the time and had signed a two year minor league contract with the Phillies, both sides knowing that the 2022 season would have no game action as he rehabbed from the surgery.  Just the summer before Tyler had been claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers (7/24/21) and appeared in four games with Reading even though he was ailing.  I remember Dickie Noles telling me that summer that Phillips was one to keep an eye on, that he had big league talent.  Most folks only notice the stats of minor league players and Tyler’s 2021 Phillies system numbers weren’t good but baseball folks can see talent and Mr Noles initial observations would become telling.

Tyler’s 2022 year was spent at the complex with the rehab team - we got to chat with him quite often, his knowledge of pitching and what he wanted to accomplish stood out.  His desire to learn, absorb and get better were evident.  There is a tradition amongst the pitchers in the rehab group that they gather to watch first bullpens and each live BP of their fellow teammates.  We saw Tyler as a leader in that group, seemingly always upbeat and encouraging.  He also would take the time to talk baseball with an old fella like me who was there for daily practice  observances.  When a player spends as much time at the complex as the rehabbers do they get to know the entire staff, Tyler befriended everyone, his girlfriend and young son also became regular attendees to watch his efforts.

Tyler progressed throughout the year and was throwing live BP session in October.  I wrote this about him in my 2022 off-season notes - “He spent the summer with the rehab team at the complex working his way back from Tommy John surgery - we saw him throw a couple live bullpen sessions in October - even now (November) he continues to rehab at the complex.  He’s got a very smooth delivery, no wasted motion - we saw a slider/curve with late break and a change up that had really good “dance” - tumbling action.  He’s a Bishop Eustace Prep graduate from Pennsauken, NJ  and grew up a Phillies fan.  During his rehab he’s shown that he can pop the mitt in the mid nineties on occasion.  While he’s still in the early throwing stages of his rehab work I’m excited on what’s possibly to come.  When the rehab pitchers throw their fellow pitchers in the group gather to watch, we noted how Tyler is a leader - will point out pitches, release and angles to others - it showed me he has an intellect and love for pitching and competitive makeup that will bode well when he gets back to pitching in games.  We think Tyler is someone who will get to the upper levels quickly once given the go - is a real possibility to make his big league debut and positively contribute to the big club.”

In 2023 spring training camp Tyler joined the regulars and competed for a full season roster spot.  He threw well and I remember that the club was even considering extending him a non-roster invitation mid camp.  He broke camp as a member of the Reading rotation and earned a promotion to Lehigh Valley on 7/6/23.  Tyler threw a total of 122.2 innings while he incorporated multiple new pitch angles and grips to boot!  We wrote this in our 2023 off-season notes on him - “Reminds me of Zach Eflin in pitching style and build (Tyler is 6’5”) - we were excited with what we saw and where he could get to. This year was full go from the jump, not only returning to game action but also incorporating three new pitches (sinker - 91 to 96 mph), slider/curve (swerve) and changeup (splitter) to accompany a big hook curve that he already had.  It was a reinvention of sorts on the fly and on select nights it was dominant (6/14 - six scoreless, 6/20 - six IP, one run allowed, 6/25 - five IP - one run allowed, 8/19 - 7 IP - one run allowed and 9/6 - five scoreless) while on others he struggled.  The inconsistency was somewhat expected given the first year back to work and the learning on the job of new pitches.  Numbers don’t always tell the complete story - this young man has the ability to get big league hitters out, in my humble opinion that will be even more evident next year.”

Minor League Pitching Coordinator Travis Hergert told me this in my 2023 off season interactions - Phillips is an org success story coming out of our Rehab group. He added three new pitches during his time in rehab all the way to the end of this season.  He picked up a two seamer/sinker that became his primary fastball, getting a lot of weak contact on the ground.  He added more of a sweeping slider to mirror the sinker and once in AAA, he added a split-change.  He was a work horse all season long and rebounded well from TJ surgery in '21.”

Tyler provided these reflections on the 2023 season and how far he had come - “I will start by saying that I’m very proud of my ability to throw as many innings as I did this year after surgery. I faced adversity while trying to remember how to pitch again. I always heard guys say they forgot how to pitch after TJ and thought that was crazy, but I figured out it wasn’t the pitching itself, it was the mentality I carry on the mound game to game. It was remembering what gives me the competitive edge. My biggest take away from the season is that I’m more than capable of getting high caliber players out. I feel that when I got to Lehigh even with fatigue beginning to kick in I only got better, where as my last time in Triple A I was timid and didn’t attack hitters. I developed three new pitches this season. My sinker and ability to change speeds when I made the adjustments, proved to be extremely effective and I learned how to be more of a pitcher every single day.

Going into the offseason, a huge focus for me is to continue building a solid foundation in strength, and mobility to put me in a position to stay healthy and endure the long season.  From a skill standpoint my limiting factor this year was facing lefties. They gave me some issues occasionally. I struggled being in the zone with the new sinker. It was very evident on my heat maps that I was going to be pitching away from lefties making it an easy decision to lay off and make me come to them. I’m going to have to work on keeping all of my stuff in the zone to lefties and I may also be developing another new pitch to help that process along.  Lastly, the mental side. I stated earlier that I am more than capable of getting very good hitters out. I have to continue to believe in myself as a very good pitcher and trust that I’m a very effective contact/ ground ball pitcher. With trust in those things I can carry my true competitive nature into every game and give my team a chance to win each start.”

He was a free agent after the season but signed a 2024 minor league contract with the Phillies and received a non-roster invitation to big league spring training camp.  Tyler opened the season with LHV and made 15 starts amassing 92 innings pitched going six or more innings in 12 of his starts and averaging 96 pitches per outing.

And that brings us to today - his major league debut 7/7/24 - four innings pitched - one run, three hits, seven strikeouts.  A very proud moment for him, his family and for the village of folks in Player Development and auxiliary support that have watched him climb his way to the show.  He even broke a 123-year old Phillies relief pitcher MLB debut record with his seven strikeouts that had been held by Bill Duggleby, who had six K’s in his April 18, 1901 appearance.

No matter what happens going forward as TMac said on the TV broadcast Tyler will always have the memory of today - his MLB debut.  It is always a great moment to see a player make their big league debut, even more so when ya know them a bit.  It’s a sincere pride felt feeling of joy for the player and his family and that’s indeed good stuff!   Really, really cool!

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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