Evan Phillips has been a breakout star since joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021 after being waived by the Tampa Bay Rays.
In 126 games over the last two-plus seasons, Phillips has pitched 128 innings with a 1.90 ERA and an even more impressive .813 WHIP. Phillips went from being a waiver player to one of the top bullpen pieces in all of baseball with this year becoming the Dodgers closing pitcher.
In 2023, Phillips has 22 saves to only 2 blown saves and has a 2.47 ERA in 54.2 innings pitched. Phillips is pitching like an All-Star and Dave Roberts knows he can trust him on the mound in October.
“I’m very confident,” Roberts said to Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times regarding Phillips’ ability to handle playoff pressure as a closer. “October is a crapshoot. There are players who have had experience and don’t perform well, and there’s players every year that don’t have experience — Jeremy Pena [Houston shortstop and 2022 World Series MVP] for one, Daniel Hudson — who go out there and perform. So I think for me, it’s just betting on the person, on the compete, on the preparation, and betting that the moment’s not gonna get too big for him.”(via Mike Digiovanna, Los Angeles Times)
Phillips has been a pro and a consistent bright spot in the bullpen the last two years, but stepping into the new role of closer still has a learning curve and Phillips is still adjusting. He told Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times about these adjustments.
“When the goal is to win the game, you probably operate just a touch differently than you would in the sixth, seventh or eighth inning, right?” Phillips said. “It’s understanding that if it’s a situation where you can pitch around a guy, if there’s an open base and the guy on deck is a better matchup, things like that. Those are some of the fine-tuned details that I’m learning in the moment on the mound.”(via Mike Digiovanna, Los Angeles Times)
The comparison that Phillips draws is that of current Dodger Daniel Hudson who, in 2019, was traded to Washington mid-way through the season and made the transition from middle relief to closing.
His efforts paid off as the Washington Nationals won the World Series thanks to Hudson’s four saves in nine games.
Hudson is also confident in Phillips and knows that he can step up in those big moments.
“But I think when Evan gets that first [playoff] save, assuming it goes well, which it normally does for him, he’ll get that same confidence. The only thing that can really help in those situations is experience and reps.”(via Mike Digiovanna, Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers are looking to wrap up the season, now even though Phillips might not hit the 30-save mark this year. He has the entire clubhouse and Dodger fanbase supporting him this October.
Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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