Angels’ Brett Phillips confident in new swing despite slow start

TEMPE, Ariz. — Brett Phillips spent the winter rebuilding his swing.

After a couple weeks of putting that swing to the test in big-league spring training games, Phillips concedes there’s still work to be done.

He is 1 for 19 with 11 strikeouts in Cactus League games.

“We knew this was going to be part of it, right?” Phillips said. “Trying to get 15 to 20 at-bats to get my timing down before we start assessing the mechanical things too deeply. Just getting back to seeing live pitching, because in the offseason it was all mechanical.”

Phillips, 28, signed with the Angels over the winter with a reputation for being outstanding defensively and one of the best, most energetic clubhouse presences in the majors.

That came with a career .188 average and .620 OPS.

Over the winter, though, Phillips began working out regularly with Trent Woodward, his former teammate in the Houston Astros’ system. Woodward had gained some attention last year for being instrumental in helping Taylor Ward – his former Fresno State teammate – to his breakout season.

Woodward, who has since been hired as an Angels hitting consultant, worked to help Phillips change the angle of his swing, among other things.

“There are 15 to 20 things I have corrected,” Phillips said. “It’s all new. It’s like picking up a baseball bat for the first time, but with baseball experience.”

Phillips remains “really confident,” he said, that the changes will show results as he gets his timing, which only comes with facing more big-league pitching this spring.

“In baseball, game speed is tough to replicate,” Phillips said. “We only have so many pitchers, and you can’t have them stand out there for 50 or 100 pitches so Brett Phillips can get his timing.”

Manager Phil Nevin also expressed confidence that Phillips just needs more at-bats in the spring to be the player the Angels need him to be. They signed him for his defense and speed, and just need him to hit well enough to be an occasional fill-in when one of the starters – Mike Trout, Hunter Renfroe and Ward – needs a day off.

“He’s certainly made some swing changes,” Nevin said. “You start facing live major-league pitching, it takes some time for you to get those things down. You got to keep trusting what that process is, keep trusting the stuff that you worked on. And it will show up in a game at some point.”


The Angels’ exhibition game Thursday against Team USA will offer a precious opportunity for a handful of Angels minor-leaguers.

The USA team does not have the same size roster as a major-league team during spring training, so the Angels are loaning them a few players to help them finish out the game.

Shortstop Zach Neto, infielder Jeremiah Jackson, outfielder Jordyn Adams and first baseman Trey Cabbage will all suit up for the USA.

“They’re going to have a blast being in the dugout with those guys for the whole game, getting in there later and being on the same field with them,” Nevin said. “A really good experience for all four of them. I know they’re looking forward to it. All their eyes lit up when I told them they were going to do that.”

The Angels are not expected to give any of their minor-league pitchers the chance to pitch against the star-studded USA lineup, though.

Left-hander Tyler Anderson will start the game, and Nevin said all the relievers scheduled to work are the Angels’ big-league relievers. Nevin said that was not planned, but it was “where the calendar fell.”


Outfielder Ryan Aguilar has been out with an oblique injury, according to Nevin. The Angels are hoping they can get Aguilar back in time to get him into some big-league exhibitions before the end of the spring. Aguilar briefly reached the majors last year. He posted a .906 OPS at Double-A. …

Right-hander Sam Bachman, one of the Angels’ top pitching prospects, has been out with some general soreness, Nevin said, but he’s better now. Bachman threw a bullpen session Wednesday. Bachman struck out all three hitters he faced in his only big-league exhibition this spring on Feb. 26. …

Right-hander José Marte had also been held back because of some soreness, according to general manager Perry Minasian. Marte is also better now. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday. Marte has not pitched in a game this spring. …

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Torii Hunter was in an Angels uniform as a special guest. Hunter, who spent five years with the Angels, said it was his first time back in camp in this role with the Angels. “His energy is the same as when he was a player,” Nevin said. “We played together for a short time but you can see it right away. The smile on his face. Guys just flocked to him. He’s a leader. Pick his brain. Whatever they want to do with him.”. …

Former Angels right-hander John Lackey and infielder Adam Kennedy have also been in camp this week as guests of Nevin.

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