New Angels OF Brett Phillips believes hard work will pay off

As one major-league team after another offered nothing more than a minor-league deal for outfielder Brett Phillips this winter, he was reminded of the skepticism surrounding a player who had a .144 average and a .466 OPS last year.

“Obviously everyone sees the statistics from last year and says, ‘Maybe Brett Phillips is undeserving of a major-league contract.’ And at times, I believed that,” Phillips said Tuesday.

The Angels, however, did believe in Phillips enough to sign him to a one-year, $1.2-million deal Monday. One of the reasons they have hope in an offensive rebound is the work they’ve seen from Phillips this winter, which included time with the same private hitting instructor who unlocked Taylor Ward’s success in 2022.

Phillips spent the winter working out with Trent Woodward, who played with Ward at Fresno State and with Phillips in the Houston Astros’ system. Woodward’s career ended in the minors, and now he works in medical sales and teaches hitting on the side.

Phillips was playing with the Rays in Anaheim in May, just when the story of Ward’s work with Woodward was gaining traction after his sizzling start to the season. Phillips said he got the idea to reach out to Woodward, but never acted on it until after the season.

When he finally did, he was pleasantly surprised to learn Woodward no longer lived in California, but instead in Liberty Hill, Texas.

That’s the same city where Phillips and his wife were building a house.

“I was like ‘Holy cow, this is a God thing,’” Phillips said.

Phillips said he worked with Woodward “day in and day out” over the winter, and he is confident he can improve on his career .188 average and .620 OPS.

“Obviously, this is all talk and Angel fans and front office, they’re going to have expectations of performance,” Phillips said. “With the discipline and routine that I have now today, I can honestly say I’m ready for those expectations. And whatever happens, I’m going to be prepared. And I’m going to be disciplined and intentional with a routine each and every day. Why? Because I have the information. I have an understanding.”

Phillips said that even if the numbers don’t improve, “at least I’ll be able, God willing, to teach my son one day how to swing a baseball bat properly.”

If Phillips does hit, it will be a bonus for the Angels. They signed him to be their fourth outfielder, contributing on defense and running the bases.

General manager Perry Minasian said the planned roster is “solidified” with Phillips backing up starters Mike Trout, Hunter Renfroe and Ward.

Barring injury, that means that Jo Adell, 23, and Mickey Moniak, 24, would start in the minors.

“Those are obviously young players who are very talented that haven ‘t necessarily turned the corner yet that have been putting in a significant amount of work this offseason to do that,” Minasian said. “They’re both young. I think we forget about how young these two players are.”

Minasian added that “how things look today are not necessarily how they’ll look when we get to spring training or at the end of spring training.”

Obviously, an injury to any of the top four would open the door for Adell or Moniak. Having the depth to withstand injuries has been a focus of Minasian all winter, evident by acquisitions of versatile players Gio Urshela and Brandon Drury.

Phillips also appeals to Minasian because of his clubhouse presence. He is known as one of the most likable players in the majors, willing to do anything to help the team.

That includes pitching.

Phillips has pitched five innings of mop-up duty in his career, including one memorable appearance against the Angels. He was on the mound when Anthony Rendon hit a homer left-handed, putting a humorous cap on Reid Detmers’ no-hitter.

“I honestly didn’t even know it was Anthony Rendon until he was he was crossing home plate,” Phillips said. “Out there on the mound, to be completely honest, all I’m doing is looking at the catcher’s mitt, and trying to throw strikes and I’m not trying to get hurt. When Rendon took me deep lefty and he crossed the plate, I was just like ‘That son of a gun. He really just did that. That was really cool.’”


Right-handers Griffin Canning (back) and Chris Rodriguez (shoulder surgery) have begun throwing off a mound, continuing to provide hope that they could contribute in 2023 after missing the entire 2022 season. “If both those guys are healthy entering spring training, they’ll be exciting to watch,” Minasian said. “Right now they are on schedule to be with us in spring training and we’ll see where they’re at.” …

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Minasian said first baseman Jared Walsh (thoracic outlet surgery) and infielder Andrew Velazquez (knee surgery) are also expected to be ready to go when spring training begins. …

Minasian said he still has nothing he can announce about the plans for Shohei Ohtani in spring training. Ohtani will be playing for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, so it’s unclear if he will report to Arizona to work out with the Angels before heading to Japan to prepare for the WBC. Japan’s first game is March 9 in Tokyo, but the team is expected to begin its camp weeks earlier.

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