Consistency is the key for Phillips

After struggling with the Single-A Clinton LumberKings one season ago, left-handed pitcher Zach Phillips rebounded to become one of the top pitchers in the Midwest League. Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with the 20-year-old, who finished the regular season with a 2.91 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 151.2 innings.

Zach Phillips' 2007 season – his second with the Single-A Clinton LumberKings – was all about improvement. Every aspect of the southpaw's game – from personal and team record to hits to ERA to strikeouts – showed significant improvement over the previous year.

Just a year after going 5-12 with a 5.96 ERA for the LumberKings, Phillips repeated the league and went 11-7 with a 2.91 earned run average.

The 20-year-old finished second in the Midwest League with 157 strikeouts in 151 2/3 innings. He held opposing hitters to a batting average of .247 and surrendered just six home runs.

Phillips works with a three-pitch arsenal that includes a two-seam sinking fastball, a curveball and a changeup. While the lefty's low-90's sinker and curveball have always been above-average pitches, one of the keys to his improvement has been the development of a changeup, which he has worked on since joining the organization in 2005.

"I had pretty good feel for my changeup pretty much all year," said Phillips. "I feel it improved quite a bit as far as arm action. The grip and arm action is pretty much what it's all about."

Throughout the season, the California native has also been keeping a close eye on his mechanics, with the help of L-Kings pitching coach Danny Clark.

"The main thing I have been working on is just pretty much the lift from my delivery standpoint," he said. "It has been slowing me down a little bit. I am also using my legs more and using my back leg on my drive. That's pretty much what I've been working on in the bullpens."

Phillips was our pitcher of the month in June.
However, Phillips says the main key to his turnaround in 2007 has simply been staying consistent.

"Last year I was a little inconsistent," said Phillips. "I had a few good starts and then I had a few bad ones. The main thing this year was that I wanted to be more consistent with all my starts. That was pretty much my main goal."

Phillips certainly achieved consistency in Clinton this year, as he never posted an ERA north of 3.44 in any month.

While becoming a more consistent pitcher was Phillips' personal goal, he had also set goals for the team.

"My regular season was pretty good," said Phillips. "We got to the playoffs and that is what the main goal was for this year. The next goal is to win a championship."

With the regular season coming to a close on Monday night, the LumberKings enjoyed a day of rest on Tuesday. But Phillips will toe the rubber on Wednesday night, as Clinton travels to Cedar Rapids for game one of a best-of-three series.

Phillips is honored to be named the game one starter for a Clinton team that features a few promising young arms.

"I'm very happy about that," said Phillips when asked about getting the nod on Wednesday. "I want to go out and give my team a first game victory. Hopefully we can keep the momentum on our side for the playoffs."

After facing the Cedar Rapids Kernels twice this season, the left-hander believes he has a good idea of what he wants to do.

"I've faced them a few times and I've been pretty successful against them," he said. "I've got a little game plan coming into tomorrow."

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