It's been quite an MLB journey for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Evan Phillips, who came into the league after being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 17th round back in 2015. He debuted in 2018 and was traded to the Baltimore Orioles after just four games in ATL.
That trade held significance for the right-hander, though. He's from Salisbury, Maryland and grew up an O's fan. A literal dream come true.
Unfortunately, the O's couldn't unlock Phillips. He lasted 44 games in Baltimore and was released in 2020 after compiling a 7.36 ERA, 4.67 FIP and 1.87 WHIP across 47.2 innings of work from 2018-2020. Phillips then made a quick pit stop in Tampa for one game to fill a spot on the active roster before being traded to LA.
Check and mate for the two AL East clubs. Since becoming a Dodger, Phillips owns a 1.79 ERA, 2.36 FIP and 0.83 WHIP in 110 games (110.2 innings). Let's remind O's fans what could have been if Phillips had been able to find his form earlier, earning the chance to pitch alongside Felix Bautista and Yennier Cano in 2023.
Manager Dave Roberts better figure out a way to get him in a game this series after Phillips was unavailable to pitch Monday after being used on Sunday.
Orioles releasing Evan Phillips led him to success with Dodgers
And let us tell ya, the Orioles really missed something. Back in 2019 when Phillips finished with a 6.43 ERA and 1.86 WHIP across 28 innings in Baltimore, he still managed 40 strikeouts and a 3.96 FIP. The signs were there.
But, for whatever reason, the O's continued to have him emphasize his fastball, which only averaged 94 MPH. Same goes for 2020. He was throwing his four-seamer 66% of the time and not getting the baseline results needed with his counting stats.
Two years later, the Dodgers swapped his fastball and slider (now "sweeper") usage. Now, he was throwing the slider 44% of the time and his fastball 19% of the time. The result? A 1.14 ERA, 1.94 FIP and 0.76 WHIP in 64 games (63 innings). They also fully had him ditch his changeup for a cutter, which is now his second-most utilized pitch at 23%.
Not only that, but Phillips has seen an uptick in velocity on all of his pitches under the Dodgers' tutelage. His fastball averaged 94.5 MPH and his sweeper averaged 83.6 MPH back in 2020. In 2023, he's logging 96.4 MPH and 85.5 MPH on both.
What a homecoming it'll be if the right-hander can get a high-leverage inning during this series.