MILWAUKEE -- If the Brewers need an arm after losing ace right-hander Jimmy Nelson to a season-ending shoulder injury, they might think about giving their rookie center fielder a shot.After catching a fly ball from Elias Diaz, Brett Phillips unleashed the strongest throw measured by Statcast™ this season, a 104-mph
MILWAUKEE -- If the Brewers need an arm after losing ace right-hander Jimmy Nelson to a season-ending shoulder injury, they might think about giving their rookie center fielder a shot.
After catching a fly ball from Elias Diaz, Brett Phillips unleashed the strongest throw measured by Statcast™ this season, a 104-mph dart from center field to home plate to retire the Pirates' David Freese, sealing a double play for the final out of the fourth inning during the Brewers' 8-2 win on Wednesday at Miller Park. It came as part of a big night for the Brewers' No. 12 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, who also drove in three runs with a pair of singles and scored on a wild pitch.
There was also a notable faceplant on the bases, but Phillips earned a pass thanks to that throw. It was the second hardest for an outfield assist ever recorded by Statcast™ (since 2015), trailing the Yankees' Aaron Hicks' 105.5-mph rocket last season.
"The Phillips play was an enormous play in the game," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "An outstanding play."
It came with the Brewers leading, 5-1, in the wake of a four-run third inning. The Pirates had runners at second and third with one out against Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson, working on three days' rest, when Elias Diaz lifted a flyout to Phillips in center field.
David Freese, the runner at third, tagged and headed home. Phillips' throw was right on target for an inning-ending double play.
By the time reporters got to him after the game, Phillips was already aware of the Statcast™ reading.
"Yeah that might be broken," he deadpanned. "I think it was harder."
He was kidding.
"That's cool and all, but he was out. That's all I'm worried about," Phillips said. "I've said it before, the feeling for me is throwing a guy out and just seeing Chase's face. Helping him out of a bind, that's the best thing for me."
His strong arm was no surprise. In Phillips' Major League debut against the Giants on June 5, he introduced himself to the Miller Park faithful with a perfect throw to second base to catch the Giants' Denard Span trying to stretch a double.
The Brewers have used Phillips sporadically since recalling him on Sept. 1 from Triple-A Colorado Springs for his fourth stint in the Majors this season. He had a bounceback season in the Minors, hitting .305 with a .944 OPS, 19 home runs and 78 RBIs in 105 games for Colorado Springs, while manning all three outfield spots.
Now he is playing his way into a more prominent role as the Brewers chase a postseason berth, Counsell suggested.
"The most impressive thing about Brett so far is he has really impacted the game defensively when he's been in there," Counsell said. "In a bunch of games that he's started -- and he obviously hasn't started many -- he's made an impression on us, for sure."
Speaking of impressions, Phillips might find a chalk outline of his likeness between first and second base when the Brewers return to action on Friday for the start of a relocated series against the Marlins. On his two-run single in the third inning, Phillips headed for second base on a throw home and fell face-first in the dirt along the way.
"Good form on the dive, it was just a little too early. Probably 30 feet too early," Phillips said. "I made it there, any way any how. It's just what I can do to help this team win."
He was actually serious about that last part.
"It's an amazing feeling to help a team win," Phillips said. "You know, these guys can look to me and say, 'Hey, Phillips can play. He can help a team win.' And that's what I'm here to do."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.