Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
On Aug. 16, the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed Evan Phillips off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays in what was a move mostly focused on building their pitching depth.
The then-26-year-old was 1-3 with one save, a 7.26 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 49 games (one start) over parts of four seasons in the Majors at the time.
Phillips made his 2021 debut with the Rays and converted a three-inning save to help provide their bullpen with needed rest but he was designated for assignment the day after.
The right-hander only ended up appearing in seven games for the Dodgers, but he did fairly well, throwing 10.1 innings with a 3.48 ERA and 3.17 FIP while striking out 19.6% of hitters and walking 10.9%.
What is most intriguing about Phillips is his slider that averages 15.3 inches of horizontal movement, which is 130% better than league average. Batters hit just .160 and slugged .320 off the pitch and swung and missed at it nearly 30% of the time he threw it.
This year also marked the first season Phillips started throwing the slider as often or more than his fastball, so it shouldn’t be a surprise he finally started to find some success at the Major League level.
On Aug. 13, Phillips was throwing his slider about 30% of the time. In September with the Dodgers, he increased it 52% and had some outings where the number was closer to 75% of the time.
It bodes well for him moving forward and the Dodgers have a long list of pitchers they have helped turn around the career of, so Phillips could be next on that list.
The Dodgers also opted to carry Phillips on their National League Championship Series roster, which could show they do have some trust in him and his ability.
Phillips’ 2021 highlight
Phillips’ best outings of the season are what he did in the postseason for L.A. He only appeared in two games, but he was nearly unhittable when the lights were the brightest.
In three innings, Phillips allowed only one hit, walked two and struck out six batters while winning one game.
Phillips is out of Minor League options and will need to make the roster out of Spring Training or the Dodgers could risk losing him.
Because of the upside he has shown, it would be surprising if Phillips doesn’t make the roster to begin the season. However, he would likely be one of the first to be designated for assignment if he does not continue his success quickly.
With Corey Knebel leaving for the Philadelphia Phillies and the possible departures of Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly, the Dodgers will need one or two right-handed relievers to step up.
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