Phillies draft Bishop Eustace graduate Tyler Phillips and send Yunior Marte to Lehigh Valley

ATLANTA — Tyler Phillips grew up in South Jersey, played baseball at Bishop Eustace Prep and was a Phillies fan. Last year, after the end of his minor league season with the Triple A Iron Pigs, he decided to go to a playoff game.

It was Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. Aaron Nola was pitching and Phillips was late, much to his chagrin. He had left three hours early but got caught in traffic on the way to the stadium. So he did what any reasonable person would do.

“I parked at Chickie’s and Pete’s,” he said. “I was like, ‘Dude, I gotta go. Here’s $150.'”

He sprinted to Citizens Bank Park and arrived in the fifth inning. The experience stayed with him.

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“The energy was just incredible,” Phillips said. “My arm was dead at that point and I was like, ‘I feel like I can throw 100 miles an hour right now.’ I just wanted to be in that atmosphere with those guys.”

The right-handed pitcher took a step closer to his goal on Friday afternoon. He was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley ahead of the Phillies’ series in Atlanta. It will be his first appearance on a major league roster. As a result, Yunior Marte was sent back to Triple A and to make room on the 40-man roster, Luis Ortiz was placed on the 60-day injured list.

Manager Rob Thomson said Phillips was brought in to provide depth. Rain is expected in Atlanta this weekend and he doesn’t want to overload the bullpen. But pragmatism aside, the Phillies like Phillips.

He posted a 4.89 ERA with 78 strikeouts this year at Lehigh Valley. He throws six pitches and can go long, throwing at least six innings in 12 of his 15 Triple-A starts.

Right now, the Phillies see him as a long-term player. Thomson would have no problem letting Phillips play three, four or five innings in a row.

“He impressed me,” Thomson said. “He plays with the fastball. He throws about six different pitches. But mostly fastball, two-seam more than four, slurve, curveball, split, he’s got a changeup too, he’s got a cutter. The first four are the ones he relies on the most.”

Phillips was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2015 and claimed off waivers by the Phillies in 2021. He is 26 years old and has dealt with many injuries, but he is grateful for the path he has chosen.

As a child, he attended some games at the Vet and was a frequent visitor to Citizens Bank Park, where he quickly became a fan of Jimmy Rollins and Scott Rolen. He also became a fan of Cole Hamels, who was traded from the Phillies to the Rangers the year Phillips was drafted.

During the 2016 offseason, Phillips was with his assistant coach at an Eagles tailgate party in Bishop Eustace. The coach introduced Phillips to his brother and friends, who knew all about him.

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“They were all talking to me, hugging me, saying, ‘We love you,'” Phillips said. “We care about Cole Hamels. I was like, ‘These guys are just drunk.’ They said they were going to party with him. And I was like, these guys are just messing with me, they’re messing with me.

“And then they said, ‘Cole plays for the Rangers. Let’s take a selfie and send it to him.’ I just thought these guys are totally drunk, and they were. They said, ‘Let’s take a selfie.'”

Phillips forgot about it until the next year, when he was in minor league spring training with the Rangers. Hamels was in major league spring training. As he passed by the training room one day, Hamels stopped and stuck his head into the room.

“He says, ‘Hey, I know you,'” Phillips said. “I said, ‘No, you don’t. I just got drafted.’ He said, ‘No, I know you. Look at this.’ And he pulled out his phone. And there’s the selfie. And he said, ‘I’ve had a picture of you on my phone for months, man, I was wondering who that kid was.’ And now it makes sense.

“We just had this moment where we just felt connected while attending Eagles games and tailgate events.”

They didn’t talk for long.

“I was about 18 years old,” Phillips said. “I didn’t want to disturb this legend in the middle of his training or whatever he was doing.”

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It’s not the only wild Philadelphia sports story the right-handed pitcher has to offer. In January 2018, he attended a tailgate party before the NFC Championship Game. Things got out of control.

“You know, tailgates are a little crazy,” he said. “My friends … they took a sofa. They squashed it, poured lighter fluid on it and lit it on fire. They just stood there and stood around it. It was a cold night. It was the night they won the championship. It was a great night.”

All I’m saying is that Phillips understands the Philadelphia fan base better than most players, and now he gets to experience it in a whole new way.

“I think I’ve made it pretty clear to the world that the Phillies mean everything to me,” he said. “Being able to make my debut and being here with this team … I don’t even know what I’m feeling right now. I don’t know what’s going on with my body. I can’t feel my arms, I can’t feel my legs. I’m still trying to even get a feel for it. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”

Additional bases

Thomson said he would be surprised if Kyle Schwarber (left groin strain) is not used on Tuesday. Schwarber is expected to run the bases on Saturday. Thomson added that Bryce Harper (left hamstring strain) is not far behind him.