Phillips hopes to bring energy, World Series title to Baltimore
ARLINGTON, Texas — Brett Phillips could hardly stop smiling.
Yes, he was excited to be joining an Orioles team fighting for a playoff spot — the 28-year-old outfielder was Baltimore’s lone trade deadline acquisition when his hometown Tampa Bay Rays traded him for cash after designating him for assignment. But joy is also Phillips’ natural state of being.
“This is just who I’ve always been,” Phillips said Wednesday in the Orioles’ dugout at Globe Life Field. “If I’m ever frowning, you know something must be [making me] really upset, because I’m getting to play Major League Baseball.
“I just love showing up to the ballpark. How can I not?”
The Orioles got regular looks at Phillips as he played for one of their American League East foes in the Rays, who Phillips had played for since 2020. But he was hitting .147 with a .475 OPS this season, and when Tampa Bay acquired outfielder José Siri from the Houston Astros as part of Monday’s three-team deal that saw the Orioles send Trey Mancini to Houston, the Rays removed Phillips from their 40-man roster.
Baltimore traded for him the next day, interested in his defense, speed and left-handed bat. The Orioles also added a player who has been at his best against them, with a .973 OPS in 40 career matchups against Baltimore.
At Camden Yards, Phillips has posted an .892 OPS in 22 games, saying he sees the ball well there and has “a good feel in the box.”
Phillips struck out in both at-bats off the bench in the Orioles’ 6-3 win over the Rangers on Wednesday.
He called new Orioles teammates Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins “absolute studs” for their defensive abilities in the outfield, and he looks forward to chasing down fly balls with them if manager Brandon Hyde deploys the trio in the outfield at once.
“I respect the heck out of other guys who can go and get it and who take a lot of pride in their defensive work,” Phillips said. “We’re gonna save a lot of runs for our boys.”
Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias also noted Phillips’ reputation around the game as a “wonderful teammates and clubhouse guy.” That was evident as Phillips arrived in the Orioles’ clubhouse Wednesday morning, greeting several new teammates like old friends with smiles, high fives and hugs.
To add Phillips to the active roster, Baltimore optioned Yusniel Diaz, the former top prospect who struck out in his lone at-bat in Tuesday’s major league debut, back to Triple-A.
In joining Baltimore, Phillips left a team the Orioles are chasing for a wild-card spot. He marveled at the fact they were in that position, given the struggles he’s seen from the other side in recent years.
“The energy, the way these guys are playing baseball, I mean, it’s night and day from last year, last couple of years, and I’m excited to be joining,” Phillips said. “I’d be lying if I wasn’t. But it’s a new opportunity for me, and it’s something that I always just stay positive and try and make the most out of. So I’m here and I’m looking to win a World Series with the Baltimore Orioles. That would be freaking awesome.”
He came close to doing so with the Rays in 2020, delivering a walk-off single in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and sprinting around the field as his teammates chased him.
“I think that Brandon is going to be able to plug him into spots where he can impact a game,” Elias said. “He’s got some tools that when deployed at the right place in the right time kind of make him an impact player.”
When he arrived at the ballpark Wednesday, Phillips first went into Orioles manager Brandon Hyde’s office and told him no matter what role he would be in, he would play hard. Hyde already knew that, seeing the excitement he brought to the ballpark each day with the Rays.
“He just came as advertised, in that he’s going to give you everything he’s got,” Hyde said. “You feel the energy with which he plays. He plays super hard. You look at those Tampa highlights against us, he’s high-fiving, he’s out in the on-deck circle practically when they score. He’s just into the game and excited for teammates, and we’re excited to have him.”
And Phillips, of course, is excited, too. “It’s been a whirlwind of emotions, first time, kind of going through that DFA process,” Phillips said. “I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. And, for me, this is where God has me. And I’m going to come in here and bring the energy, and through all those emotions the last day or two, I’m excited. I really am excited to be a Baltimore Oriole.”