Brett Phillips getting another shot to show the Royals what he can do

Royals’ Brett Phillips looking to break bad habits and be productive

Kansas City Royals outfielder Brett Phillips realizes he needs to work on his offense, and get back to being the productive hitter he once was.
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Kansas City Royals outfielder Brett Phillips realizes he needs to work on his offense, and get back to being the productive hitter he once was.

A little more than one year after Brett Phillips got a fresh start via a trade that sent him from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Royals, he’s still hoping to prove to the organization that he’s an asset at the big-league level.

“I’m really trying to capitalize, this time around, on my opportunity because everyone knows last year I didn’t make the most of it,” Phillips said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot as a baseball physically and, obviously, mentally this time around. I feel better prepared.”

The Royals recalled Phillips on Aug. 16, the same day they designated Billy Hamilton for assignment.

The final month and a half of the regular season amount to a second second chance in the big leagues for the 25-year-old outfielder the Royals acquired along with pitcher Jorge Lopez in the deal that sent Mike Moustakas to the Brewers.

While Phillips has admitted that starting this season back in the minors was “a tough pill to swallow,” he also called it possibly the best thing that could’ve happened for his career.

Whether those months playing for Triple-A Omaha altered his career path will hinge on what Phillips does going forward.

“(We’re) just evaluating, watching him play as a staff so that we can start to say what do we need to continue to work on next year going into the winter,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We have our meetings at the end of the year. What did we see? And what we want him to continue to do?”

Phillips turned around his season, offensively, in June and July with Omaha once he recognized a flaw in the way he was gripping the bat It caused him to lose control of the barrel in the middle of his swing.

In April, Phillips batted .186 with a .368 on-base percentage and a .322 slugging percentage. In May, he posted a slash line of .193/.323/.386.

After fixing his grip issue, he showed significant improvement in June (.292/.420/.597) and July (.280/.404/.573).

“I just want to show the front office and these coaches that I can help the Kansas City Royals win baseball games and that they can trust me,” Phillips said. “I think that’s the biggest compliment, when someone says we can trust him. If we put him late in the games. He’s going to make a play.

“At the plate, is he going to get the job man on third and less than two outs, just stuff like that. Just show something every single day that I can help the team win.”

Last season, Phillips batted .187 with a .252 on-base percentage and a .306 slugging percentage. He also struck out 41.5% of the time in 51 games with the Brewers and the Royals.

The 6-foot tall, 185-pound Phillips has built his game on being a high-motor and full-speed player.

Following the trade, Phillips felt like he needed to prove something to his new teammates, coaching staff and manager as well as the front office. So he figured he needed to leave it all on the field, as the expression goes.

The problem? He tried so hard to make an impression in pregame early work, batting practice, and in the games, that he was practically spent. A little more than a week into his first chance to play everyday in the majors, he’d nearly emptied his gas tank.

“Obviously, I’m a high-energy player and I’m 100% all the time,” Phillips said. “But I felt after the first eight games I played, I was done for the season. Literally, energy-wise I exhausted myself just from 100% everything I did.”

For the first time in his career, the bat literally started to feel heavy in his hands and his body wore down like it never had before.

This time, he’s confident that he knows how to handle the everyday grind better and understands how to conserve energy when necessary and still make highlight-reel catches and run into the wall if needed.

Last week, he didn’t shy away from the wall while making a catch on the run on a deep fly ball in center field against the Mets at Kauffman Stadium.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.