Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

Brandon Phillips opens up on mindset towards returning to majors with Red Sox

Vincent Gallo
August 19, 2018 - 12:45 pm

PAWTUCKETEven in PawSox red, Brandon Phillips’ passion for baseball still shines.

The 16-year MLB veteran still animatedly jogs on a backpedal to his positioning for an infield shift at second base, the place on the dirt where he earned three All-Star nods with the Reds. He still punches at the webbing of his four-time Gold Glove between every pitch.

There’s seemingly no spin off a bounding grounder or scream of a line drive that catches him by surprise – playfully flipping fielded balls to his throwing hand or teammates in slow lobs and holding his action outstretched for a second afterward. His arms still sway carefree and content at his sides as he strides back to his position after making an out.

The diamond is home. For Phillips, it’s the same game, and he's the same person who he says “accidentally” fell in love with baseball to move on from being a kid who liked causing mischief.

“When I was a little kid I used to play with that little Flintstone bat and I used to go around hitting my cousins and hitting rocks with it,” Phillips said, briefly grinning with nostalgia. “And my dad and my mom got mad at me for beating up my cousins with a bat all the time, so they said, ‘hey Brandon you’re supposed to hit balls with that,’ so my dad started throwing me balls and that’s how it all started.”

On Friday, while the PawSox was preparing to retake the field, television of the Red Sox 7-3 victory over the Rays flashed on McCoy Stadium’s big board. NESN’s play-by-play announcer, Dave O’Brien’s narration of Mitch Moreland’s fifth inning RBI resonated through McCoy’s 76-year-old confines, the Fenway crowd’s roar from 49 miles away, being faintly audible in the broadcast background.

For Phillips, a return to the majors feels so close.

At 37 years old, he still believes the majors are where he belongs. After hitting .250 in his first three games with short-season, Single-A Lowell (3-for-12), Phillips raised his average to .318 and rode a three-game hitting streak into his Pawtucket promotion on July 14. Friday’s 0-for-3 performance ended a recent six-game hit streak for Phillips, though he collected three multi-hit games during that span and is hitting .421 in his last 38 at-bats.

The infielder explained that after some months away from the professional field, he used his time with the Spinners to somewhat rediscover his game.

“At the beginning [in Lowell], when I got a certain amount of ABs, that’s all it took for me to get going,” said Phillips. “I just tried to approach it as Spring Training until I got to a certain amount of at-bats so I knew what I could do and what I can’t do.”

In the later stages of his career, Phillips still looks back on his first impression of how to play the game, introduced by his father, James Phillips. Recently, the second baseman has used it towards shaking off any rust and building his major league talent back up for a chance at the Red Sox 40-man roster in September.

“[My dad] taught me how to be the man and the athlete I am, he taught me how to hunt,” Phillips explained. “He showed me how to be consistent and just stay hungry every day … to not be consistent with what you have or what you’ve got - it’s always a hunt out there for you to get better.”

Phillips understands that one cannot take their time on the field for granted. Although his goals are higher, he isn’t about having any disdain for where he’s playing now. He understands that baseball is a game that hinges on a player’s mentality, and has the same outlook on baseball that he’s always possessed.

“What I did [while playing] was I just found a way to go out there and be consistent for as long as I have, and that’s going out there, and not worrying about the failures and not worrying about the positives because you’re going to fail more than you succeed in this game,” Phillips said. “And that’s one thing I just learned, because one day you might be bad and the next day you might be good, so you just really have to have fun with it while you can.”

Upon returning to the game that he loves, Phillips explained he felt a sense of fulfillment while beginning in Lowell. Surrounded by players ranging from 19 to 20 years old, he found comfort when they expressed to him their enjoyment in watching him play with the Reds.

 “It was fun,” reflected Phillips. “It was fun going down there, playing in Lowell, because it really showed me why I still play this game and the grind I really went through to get where I’m at right now … It brought smiles and joy to me because it really showed me that I was really out here having fun and playing the game the right way for those guys to look up to me. And for me to give them advice also, when I was down there, it was like a blessing in the skies.”

The Red Sox announced the signing of Phillips on June 27, a day before his birthday.

So far, since the team’s early birthday present, Phillips has made good with his new opportunity and continues to focus on the task at hand. In 26 games, the 37-year-old is hitting .293 with a home run and 13 RBIs. With September on the horizon, he has high hopes for the remainder of the season. He doesn’t want his season to end in Rhode Island.

“My mindset right now is all about today,” said Phillips. “It’s all about today and where I’m at right now. All the other stuff, I’m not really thinking about what I did in the majors, I’m just trying to get back there … All I can do is enjoy this journey while I can, I feel like my journey isn’t over. Hopefully I can get a call up to the major leagues, get back to where I think I deserve to be and try to help that team win a championship. Being a World Series champion would be a beautiful thing.”

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