Brandon Phillips’ offseason lasted a little longer than he anticipated. The Boston Red Sox eventually came calling, though, and the veteran infielder signed with the organization at the end of June.
“No. 1, they’re winning. It’s a great organization. They want to give me a chance,” Phillips said Saturday, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, after a game with Single-A Lowell. “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. (Red Sox manager) 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, now 37, is an accomplished major leaguer, having earned three All-Star selections and four Gold Glove Awards with the Cincinnati Reds. He’s regressed a bit in recent years, especially defensively, but he still hit .285 with 13 home runs, 60 RBIs and a .735 OPS in 144 games split between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels last season. There’s reason to believe he has something left in the tank, making his lengthy free agency all the more curious.
“I was very surprised,” Phillips said, per Bradford. “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 30s. 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.”
It remains to be seen whether Phillips eventually will return to the majors as a member of the Red Sox. The club remains hopeful Dustin Pedroia will return to second base at some point, with Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt serving in utility roles behind him, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers.
But Phillips, who has spent almost his entire career at second base, is a phone call away if something goes awry. It’s a reality he’s not taking lightly.
“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,’ ” Phillips said, per Bradford. “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 has got that. Pedey got hurt and I can go out there and do that, and help the young guy (Devers) at third base. I’m here to do whatever they want me to do.”
Phillips clearly has a youthful passion for the game. It served him well as his offseason extended well past Opening Day, and it should serve him well as he continues to work in the Red Sox’s farm system.
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