Brandon Phillips explains why he chose the Red Sox

Rob Bradford
July 07, 2018 - 11:55 pm

LOWELL -- Nine days before, Brandon Phillps watched his 37th birthday come and go without the opportunity to play in a real baseball game. It was the same a few days later when celebrating the Fourth of July, residing on the outside of Major League Baseball looking in.

That's why when his plane landed at Logan Airport at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, there was only one thing on his mind: get to LeLacheur Park before first pitch.

"I just had to get some ABs. I’m happy for the opportunity," Phillips said after going 2-for-5 in his debut with the Single-A Lowell Spinners. " I didn’t get any sleep. I’m married to the game, so I’m just happy to be here. It’s been a long time. Thank you GPS. It helped me get here."

For Phillips "here" is what he is hoping is just the beginning of a journey he wasn't banking on when the last offseason began.

It took the infielder until June before he finally found a new organization, having split 2017 between Atlanta and the Angels, inking a minor-league deal with the Red Sox. This was a player who owns four Gold Gloves, having made three All-Star games, but found himself having to spend the first few months of the big league season working out with college kids at Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

Finally, the Red Sox identified Phillips as a potential solution if help was needed at either second or third base, and against left-handed pitching.

"I was very surprised," he said of how the offseason unfolded. "My whole career I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent. You never know what really happened. You never know what the real reason is. Maybe it’s my age. I don’t smoke or drink so I still play like I’m in my early 30’s. I’m not even going to worry about it. I’m here right now. It sucked. It was a long offseason. I never had a Fourth of July not playing baseball, or on my birthday. Being in Georgia for that long I felt weird. But I still stayed motivated. I was still working my butt off so I could get an opportunity like this, because you never know when you might get an opportunity. The Red Sox knocked on my door, and I answered and I’m here.

"I was still positive. That’s why I kept on playing, keep on practicing. I’m still hungry. You never know what can happen because baseball is a crazy game. Anybody can get hurt. You never know, guys might want me to do a certain thing and the Red Sox gave me chance."

There are no guarantees for Phillips. He started his time with the Red Sox working out with the Gulf Coast League team in Fort Myers, Fla. before finally making the trip north in time to suit up for Star Wars Night at the home of the Spinners.

So, why the Red Sox? Phillips' motivation is clear.

"No. 1, they’re winning. It’s a great organization. They want to give me a chance," he said. "All I can do is say, ‘Thank you for the opportunity.’ It’s a big market. They’re winners. I have a lot of good friends on this team. Alex Cora, he was my teammate when I was on the Indians. Just for me to come over here and have the opportunity to get a ring. It’s a blessing in disguise. Hopefully, I can really help those guys in the future."

Phillips added, "They want to just make sure I can play all positions and just be ready. I told them, ‘I’m down. I’m down for the journey’ I want to help the team win. I want to help the team get a ring, bring a championship to Boston again. It would be my first ring. Being in the playoffs, that’s what we play for and hopefully, I can make that happen. I can play all the positions they need me to play. I feel like I’m versatile. I’ve been working a lot at second base, a lot at third base. I think shortstop, Bogie (Xander Bogaerts) has got that. Pedey (Dustin Pedroia)  got hurt and I can go out there and do that, and help the young guy (Rafael Devers) at third base. I’m here to do whatever they want me to do."

Phillips served as the Spinners' designated hitter Saturday, hitting second. His first at-bat resulted in a pop up to right field, with the righty hitter blooping single into center field his next time up. His third at-bat against Hudson Valley left-hander Blake Pflughaupt ended with Phillips striking out on an 89 mph fastball. He would bounce back in his fourth AB, lining a sharp single into left field.

The veteran had an opportunity to play hero with two outs in the ninth inning, with the Spinners trailing by a run and runners on first and second. But Phillips final swing of his first game was punctuated with a fly ball to centerfield, ending his wild (and memorable) day.

"I tell you one thing when the lights came on that’s when I knew it was real," he said. "I was waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning in the Gulf Coast League trying to get my work in. They’re like, ‘Brandon, you don’t have to do this.’ I’m like, ‘Man, I’m here for this. I want to work out with those guys. I just want to get back in the feel of it.’ When I came here, and I stepped on the field and looked at the field, I’m was like, ‘Wow, I’m home.’ I love this game. I’m not ready to retire. I’m not ready to quit. I’m still on a mission. I want to get a ring before I retire. I want to keep on going until I can’t go anymore. Just being out there playing today, it just felt good.

"Just talking to the guys in general, it just showed why I love this game and how much I missed it." 

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