Phillips trusting his stuff

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. - Zach Phillips posted a 1.23 ERA in 44 innings with High-A Bakersfield before his recent promotion to Double-A Frisco. Chris Hadorn had a Q&A session session with the left-hander during his last days with the Blaze.

Chris Hadorn: Can you talk about your start the other day (June 14 - 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K)? You've been in the bullpen for most of the season, they stretched you out to seven innings and you did really well.

Zach Phillips: It felt good. I went out there started with first two strikes, tried to get ahead of hitters. That's why I was able to keep in the game so long.

Hadorn: Was it a trying start for you since you have been on a relief workload for most of the season to be stretched out that far? Did you feel good?

Phillips: I felt fine. In my relief appearances, I usually go about three innings sometimes, two-to-three innings. A few more innings, I could battle through it. Get myself through it, I think.

Hadorn: This year your velocity has gone up and you're having possibly your best season in the minors. What do you attribute your success to?

Phillips: Definitely mindset. Hard work and just trusting my stuff. Knowing I can get hitters out and just trusting what I have.

Hadorn: When you're in relief, do have the luxury of using both your changeup and curveball a little bit more than when you're starting in the first inning, when you might hold one pitch back and not show it to the hitters?

Phillips: Usually in relief, (I) just give them a show ‘em changeup. Not as many changeups usually in relief as I would with starting. Definitely more changeups when I start. Mainly fastball, curveball (in relief). Like you said, more velocity and feels good coming out of the pen too.

Hadorn: Last year you had a little bit of struggle with your control and your curveball wasn't breaking as well. What happened last year?

Phillips: I think it was just all mindset last year. I think I have a little better attitude this year and more confidence. (I) just throw the ball over the plate and let the defense do the work behind me. That's the big key, mindset.

Hadorn: Your strikeouts have also have gone up even though you have confidence in your defense. What do you attribute that to?

Phillips: I feel this year I am actually placing the ball in and out better than last year, which helps out tremendously. Placing it in and out sets up all my other pitches for that at-bat and later at-bats in the game.

Hadorn: Coming out of Galt Union High School in Sacramento, you had the luxury of going to junior college and pitching against tougher competition. Now they don't have the draft-and-follow. How did the draft-and-follow help you and do you think it's unfortunate that the players drafted today don't get that luxury?

Phillips: Draft-and-follow was a luxury for me. I don't know why they took it away. Going to college was a great help for me and I learned a lot from going to college. I liked the draft-and-follow (process).

Hadorn: At Sacramento Community College, there was deeper and tough competition. Do you think that helped convince the Rangers to make the investment in you going against that tough junior college competition?

Phillips: Me being young, facing older guys, bigger competition, yeah, I did pretty good for how young I was. I am definitely glad I went there and that the Rangers signed me.

Hadorn: Which of your offspeed pitches do you feel more confident in right now?

Phillips: I have to go with the curveball out of the pen right now. But my last start, all my pitches worked for me so I still feel definitely confident in all of them.

Hadorn: Do you feel moving to the bullpen has helped you become a better starter?

?Phillips: I feel good starting. I started for four years. I still have the ability to do that. I have said either way wherever they want me to go, starting me or in the pen, I am there either way.

Hadorn: Fastball velocity, what do you accredit your velocity going up this year?

Phillips: Mechanics feel more smooth. I think just the amount of throwing, a little bit less, has helped me out too. Rather than going out and throwing six innings every five days, a lot of pitches. I think the bullpen has helped me out by throwing less. My arm feels good.

Hadorn: Have you had the privilege being in the Rangers organization of meeting Nolan Ryan?

Phillips: I met Nolan Ryan, definitely a great priviledge. Hopefully I will get to play for him and meet him more.

Hadorn: What did he tell you?

Phillips: He didn't really speak much, just said hi to all of us at Instructs. And spring training, gave us a little speech, told us about his career. Definitely a highlight.

Hadorn: Growing up in Sacramento, was there a pitcher you admired growing up?

Phillips: I have a lot of pitchers I liked. There's way too many, I looked up to a lot of them. It's hard to say about that.

Hadorn: Were you an Athletics fan growing up in the East Bay?

Phillips: I was an A's fan. Definitely.

Hadorn: Pitching at Bakersfield, when you see the 355 mark in center, is that a little intimidating at first? When you see the fence, it's easy to get scared. Because of the moisture of the Kern River and some of the winds there, it doesn't play like a hitters' park.

Phillips: At first when I got here (Bakersfield) last year, it was. And as the season went on, the ball doesn't carry out there at all. You really have to hit it to get it out there. I know this now and I really like pitching out there (Sam Lynn Ballpark) actually.

Hadorn: Baseball is such a grinding game, what do you like to do for fun when you get away from it?

Phillips: Just hang out with the boys and golf a little bit. Just relax. Go to a movie or something. Just relax. We're always moving, just relax as much as possible.


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