Phillips excited to play for hometown Braves

Veteran second baseman details his side of story about trade to Atlanta

February 17th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When given another opportunity to play for his hometown team again this past weekend, didn't waver from his decision to approve the trade that ended his long tenure with the Reds and made him the latest addition to the Braves lineup.

"I wanted it to happen a long time ago, but things happen," Phillips said. "There are different sides. I never thought it would happen, but I told my agent, 'You've got to make this happen.' I miss Cincinnati. That's always home. But Atlanta is my home, home."

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After arriving at Spring Training and working out with his new Atlanta teammates for the first time Friday, Phillips gave his account of what transpired this offseason as the Braves initially pursued him in November and didn't acquire him until Sunday, when a sudden need allowed them to become the willing suitor the Reds had been seeking for more than a year.

"I was just concentrating for the season and trying not to worry about what was going to happen," Phillips said. "I didn't get my hopes up, and then the next thing I'm back in Cincinnati with my head down a little bit. But when it happened, I was jumping for joy. It was like I signed my first check or something."

Phillips grew up in suburban Atlanta's Stone Mountain and he has long maintained a Buckhead residence that is approximately 20 minutes from SunTrust Park. The 35-year-old three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner maintains he has long desired to play for the Braves, but over the past couple months it had looked like he might have squandered that opportunity.

The Braves attempted to acquire Phillips in November, but before learning whether the second baseman would waive his no-trade privilege as a 10-and-5 player, they signed to a two-year deal and no longer needed Phillips.

While Phillips didn't OK the proposed trade at that point, he was surprised in January when reports indicated he vetoed the trade.

"I didn't say no to [the] trade," Phillips said. "I didn't really know what was going on. When I heard about it, I was like, 'For real, why didn't you guys make that happen?' That's why I didn't want to say anything or to call anybody out. I never said I didn't want to play for the Atlanta Braves. I'm here now, and I'm very happy."

Phillips gained a second opportunity last weekend, when the Braves unexpectedly learned Rodriguez might miss the season while recovering from left shoulder surgery. This led the Braves to circle back to the Reds, who received consent from the second baseman to trade him to Atlanta in exchange for two Minor League pitchers.

While the Reds no longer had room for Phillips as they prepare to use former Braves top prospect as their second baseman, the Braves certainly had a need for the veteran who produced a .844 OPS over his final 63 games last season.

There are some concerns about a left hand injury Phillips suffered late last year, but given the fact the Reds were willing to eat all but $1 million of the second baseman's $14 million salary, the Braves were willing to take this gamble that has brought Phillips home.

"I don't look at it like I have to go out there and bang this year," Phillips said. "I feel like I've been doing that ever since I've played. As long as I stay healthy, I can be one of the best players in this game."