Anyone who knows Phillips, or even saw him serve as a whiteboard-holding “coach” during the American League Championship Series last year, understands that he’ll still bring a positive attitude and boundless energy to the Rays even while he’s working his way back. That was already the case on Tuesday.
“We've got business to take care of all around,” Phillips said Tuesday morning. “Come into the clubhouse each and every day, get my work in, be a good teammate, give energy, things that my teammates expect of me. And that's what I'm going to do until I'm back out there next to them.”
The fact that this injury happened at all is frustrating enough for Phillips. Just before the postseason began last year, he dealt with tightness in his right hamstring. He said this injury feels similar to that one, which he played through given everything at stake. But this one will likely keep the World Series hero from cracking the Rays’ Opening Day roster.
“If we're in the playoffs right now, I'm playing through this, but there's no reason to rush,” he said. “Hopefully, get back out there in less than three weeks or four weeks, but we'll see.”
Phillips said he entered Spring Training with “zero deficiencies” in his hamstrings, hips and glutes, areas he addressed during his offseason training program. So it was obviously vexing when he felt his left hamstring grab on him while he was scoring from second base on Kevan Smith’s single on Sunday afternoon.
“But it's a part of the job. Injuries like this happen, freak accidents. I honestly wouldn't blame this on anything I did wrong. I kept the same routine,” Phillips said. “It's just one of those things. We're going to have to try and find the issue is going on, whether it's in my hamstrings or somewhere else that's causing it, because I haven't had issues like this in the past.”
Though Phillips is eager to get back on the field as soon as possible, he’s also wary of rushing back and aggravating the injury, turning it into a recurring issue. He needs his legs under him to play the excellent defense he’s known for and provide added value on the basepaths.
“We're going to make sure that the hamstring fully heals, because I rely a lot on my speed,” he said. “That's a part of my game. That's what's going to help the Rays win, so I'm just going to make sure it's 100 percent so we don't have any setbacks.”
• The Rays' lineup broke out in a big way during a seven-run, 12-batter second inning in their 7-1 win over the Orioles on Tuesday at Charlotte Sports Park. Manuel Margot, Mike Brosseau and Yandy Díaz all delivered a run-scoring hit, and Mike Zunino crushed a three-run homer way out to left-center field.
“It was good to see,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Bats have been kind of quiet leading into that, but we had a nice big inning.”
• The Rays also had a strong game defensively, highlighted by the corner-infield work of Díaz at third base and Yoshi Tsutsugo at first. Cash said the club is impressed that Tsutsugo has “really taken to first base well,” which could be important if Ji-Man Choi (right knee inflammation) misses more time than expected.
• Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough threw 50 pitches and worked into the fourth inning, striking out two and giving up three hits over 3 1/3 scoreless frames. He said he had to miss two days of workouts between starts due to either food poisoning or a stomach bug, but he felt good on the mound Tuesday.
Around the horn
• Tuesday’s game was scheduled for nine innings but was shortened to seven due to an unexpected early exit by Orioles starter Félix Hernández. As a result, the Rays will try to find innings over the next few days for several pitchers who didn’t get on the mound as scheduled, including Dietrich Enns, Chris Ellis and Joey Krehbiel. They already have a game on a back field scheduled for Wednesday, in which right-hander Brent Honeywell Jr. will work an inning.
• Second baseman Brandon Lowe started Monday’s game in left field, and infielder Mike Brosseau should get a start in the outfield soon. The Rays want to make sure they’re covered there while Phillips is out, especially if Tsutsugo plays more first base than left field while Choi is sidelined.
• Randy Arozarena said he was excited that his brother, Raiko, a goalkeeper who had been playing soccer in Mexico, is joining the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the United Soccer League.
“I'm very happy that we're going to be close to each other,” Arozarena said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “I know he's worked and he's sacrificed a lot to get to the position that he's in, and I'm looking forward to see him play in a different level in a different place.”
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow, coming off a sensational outing against the Braves, will start for the Rays on Wednesday as they travel north to play the Pirates at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. It will be a duel between former top pitching prospects, as right-hander Mitch Keller is slated to start for Pittsburgh. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET, airing live on MLB Network.