Phillips waited to clear intake testing before joining the team, and he will play a few different roles on the team, according to manager Kevin Cash. Phillips, who is known for his defense, will serve as a defensive replacement in all three outfield spots and will get the occasional start, though the Rays have a crowded outfield right now.
The Rays will also use Phillips as a pinch-hitter in the right situations, and their plan to insert him as a late-innings pinch-runner proved fruitful in Friday's 5-4 win over the Marlins, during which he replaced Yoshi Tsutsugo on the basepaths in the eighth inning and stole third base.
“We’re excited to have him,” Cash said before the game. “He’s a player that, you look at what he’s done in the Minor Leagues and he’s kind of checked a lot of boxes. He’s really done some special things offensively, and then he got into that up-down phase, which is challenging. Maybe the opportunities haven’t been as much or as needed in the big leagues, but we like a lot of things that he does. … We’re excited to have that type of player.”
Aside from being traded to a first-place team, Phillips said that he’s also excited about putting on the uniform of the team he grew up rooting for. Phillips, who attended Seminole High School and is from the Tampa Bay area, said he has a lot of fond memories at Tropicana Field, including multiple Fan Fests and watching players such as Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton.
“This is a dream inside of a dream,” Phillips said before the game. “My excitement cannot be measured right now. When you’re a young kid, you want to play in the big leagues, and you don’t care what team you play for. And then when you make it to the big leagues, your dream inside this dream is playing for your hometown. Being able to do this, I don’t know that many guys can say that they’ve done it in their careers, so this is a huge blessing. I’m so thankful to be part of this squad.”
Phillips added that being back in the Tampa Bay area gives him a chance to reunite with his wife, who he hasn’t seen in two months because she works in St. Petersburg. He also got a chance to see his family in the parking lot for the first time in seven months.
Another perk of playing for the Rays for Phillips? Suiting up for Cash.
“I saw his [postgame] interview the other night,” Phillips said, referring to Cash’s Zoom call after Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. “Obviously he cares about the boys. I’m excited to play for him. … I’m going to give him 110 percent for that man, just knowing that he has our backs like that.”
The Rays activated reliever Nick Anderson, who has been on the injured list since Aug. 20 with a right forearm injury. Anderson threw a simulated game on Wednesday and felt that he was ready to return.
Getting Anderson back is a huge boost to Tampa Bay's bullpen, which has suffered a plethora of injuries this season. After pitching a scoreless ninth on Friday, Anderson has four saves and has yet to allow an earned run in 12 appearances this season.
“We’re thrilled to have him back,” Cash said. “It goes without saying how important he is to our bullpen and what he’s capable of doing and just the stuff that he features. We’re going to be very aware of his workload, but he’s full-go.”
In order to make room on the active roster for Anderson, the Rays optioned left-hander Ryan Sherriff to the alternate training site.
José Alvarado (left shoulder inflammation) was moved to the 45-day IL, ending his regular season. However, Cash said that Alvarado has “taken a turn for the better” over the past three to four days and could be available to return if the Rays make it to the postseason.
“His work has been tremendous, and the message was given that he is fully capable of being a big, big part of us if we’re fortunate to somehow get to baseball beyond September,” Cash said. “We have a lot of work left to do that, but he realizes that he can really help us out.”