On the Rebound: Q&A with Mark Phillips

Now is not the time to give up on Mark Phillips. After enduring nothing short of a nightmare in 2004, the promising lefty is coming back with vengeance in 2005. Going through what he did, Phillips deserves all the credit in the world as he looks to rebound back to top prospect form.

Mark Phillips went through just about the worst experience that a pitcher could possibly go through. He suddenly became a pitcher who simply forgot how to throw the ball the way that made him as good as he is today. He called it frustrating to the point of making him nearly crazy, but it wasn't enough to take away his drive. The hard throwing lefty is now back working out in Tampa, this time throwing the way he did when the Yankees first acquired him. It has been a long road back, but one that Mark Phillips feels he has traveled well but certainly one he never wants to travel again. Mark took time out to chat with PinstripesPlus.com to tell us about his original problem, the road back and what he expects from himself in 2005.

PinstripesPlus: Mark, this has obviously been the most trying part of your career. What steps did you take to snap out of it over the off season?

Mark Phillips: Well, you can ask guys that saw me last year and they can tell you that I just wasn't myself. I was just never comfortable all year and it was a really confusing time in my career. I went home after the season, thought about it and then started throwing. I took myself back to what made me successful in the past. I worked out with my brother and I even worked out at my old high school. I was willing to try anything just to get myself back in the mindset I use to have.

PP: For the readers that are not familiar with what you went through, describe the course of events that led to a lost 2004 season.

Phillips: I think it all started out in 2003. That was my first season in the Yankee organization and things didn't go all that well. My arm really started to bother me that year. I ended up going for an arthrogram and an MRI. It was a little scary because it was the first real serious injury that I had. Then, after going through that, I really think it came down to just not being comfortable with letting the ball go. Things just weren't fluent like they should be. Then, after that, I think I just starting getting everything mixed up. Things started changing. But, I think it was more mental than anything else. It is one of the weirdest things I've ever experienced; it is literally like I forgot how to throw a baseball.

PP: So, where exactly do you trace the problem back to?

Phillips: I would say that the beginning of it was in 2003 because my walk totals were high and my arm was hurting. But, no one saw the full effects of it until I got to spring training in 2004. Then, from that point, it was really like a snowball effect. I just couldn't throw the ball to the catcher. Everything was going wrong. Like I said, it was one of the weirder experiences I have ever been through. I don't even know if I could explain it now.

PP: Do you believe the problem had anything to do with a mechanical flaw?

Phillips: Not really, actually. My mechanics may have started to get messed up afterwards but everything stemmed from something mental. I just started thinking too much and it just seemed to get worse and worse as spring training went on. It wasn't even like it was me pitching.

PP: In the spring of 2004, were you surprised by the Yankees' decision to keep you out of game action?

Phillips: I am not sure how surprised I was but maybe just surprised by what happened in spring training. Throwing the way I was, I don't know what would have happened had I pitched in a live game. No doubt about it, it was incredibly frustrating though. To not be able to pitch at all in a game, that was like a nightmare. I tell you what, it is something I hope me or anyone else never has to go through again.

PP: Now, do you believe you over this problem and back to being the Mark Phillips that you were in the Padre organization?

Phillips: I think I am back to where I was earlier on in my career. I'm throwing hard like I use to and my command is back. I couldn't be more confident than I am right now. I am throwing very well in workouts right now and I'm hoping that is going to carry over into the regular season.

PP: Your scenario was obviously frustrating for you. How did the organization handle it?

Phillips: Really they were great about the whole thing. I couldn't thank them enough for how much faith they had in me through all of my problems. They could have just as easily said, well it looks like you can't do it anymore so hit the road. But, they stuck with me. I don't know how many times Mark Newman told me, don't worry about it, we'll get you through this and you'll be back to what you were in no time. I know it must have been frustrating for them but they stuck with me and I'll remember that. I want to go out there this season to repay them for the faith they kept in me all this time.

PP: Where do you expect to start off the 2005 season?

Phillips: Well, I am really, really hoping that it is going to be AA Trenton. I'll be pushing hard and I hope that I end up on that starting rotation. If it is Tampa, of course, I can accept that, but I really hope it isn't. I want to keep moving forward with my career so Trenton would be great. Not to mention, I am from Hanover, PA so it is a little closer to home than Tampa.

PP: Going backwards here for a moment, what was your initial reaction when you were traded to the Yankees from the Padres?

Phillips: Oh, I was really happy. Being with the San Diego was great but the Yankees are such an amazingly classy organization in so many different ways. They had actually scouted me out of high school and they were really good to me then. In fact, their scout came to every one of my games in my senior year. No one else did that. But, I was picked 9th overall so I just didn't fall to them in the draft. But, I couldn't be happier being in this organization.

PP: What are your main goals heading into 2005?

Phillips: First, I am not even going to let last year come into my mind. In my mind, that is over and hopefully, nothing ever happens like that again. I am back to throwing the ball with emphasis and purpose in the strike zone. So, I'd like to carry that momentum I've built and pitch in that AA Trenton rotation. I'd also like to continue improving my changeup. I already have a real good curveball; that has never been the problem. But, if I can make my changeup, even more effective, I'll be in good shape.


After going through a season of no game action at all, it has obviously been a rocky road back for Mark Phillips. All of his problems stemmed from the head, nothing more. Perhaps it began with an achy arm but the fact is that the hard throwing lefty hasn't lost anything. He still has the same stuff as he did when the Yankees traded for him. Although he may not longer be the hot shot prospect he once was, this is no reason to give up on him just yet. He still has a lot to offer, so considering that he came back from something that perhaps only Rick Ankiel could relate to, why not sit and back, watch and see what Mark Phillips brings to the table in 2005.

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Mark Phillips for his time and efforts in answering these questions. We wish him the best of luck in 2005.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nMark Phillips went through just about the worst experience that a pitcher could possibly go through. He suddenly became a pitcher who simply forgot how to throw the ball the way that made him as good as he is today. He called it frustrating to the point of making him nearly crazy, but it wasn't enough to take away his drive. The hard throwing lefty is now back working out in Tampa, this time throwing the way he did when the Yankees first acquired him. It has been a long road back, but one that Mark Phillips feels he has traveled well but certainly one he never wants to travel again. Mark took time out to chat with PinstripesPlus.com to tell us about his original problem, the road back and what he expects from himself in 2005.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Mark, this has obviously been the most trying part of your career. What steps did you take to snap out of it over the off season?
\r\n
\r\nMark Phillips: Well, you can ask guys that saw me last year and they can tell you that I just wasn't myself. I was just never comfortable all year and it was a really confusing time in my career. I went home after the season, thought about it and then started throwing. I took myself back to what made me successful in the past. I worked out with my brother and I even worked out at my old high school. I was willing to try anything just to get myself back in the mindset I use to have.
\r\n
\r\nPP: For the readers that are not familiar with what you went through, describe the course of events that led to a lost 2004 season.
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: I think it all started out in 2003. That was my first season in the Yankee organization and things didn't go all that well. My arm really started to bother me that year. I ended up going for an arthrogram and an MRI. It was a little scary because it was the first real serious injury that I had. Then, after going through that, I really think it came down to just not being comfortable with letting the ball go. Things just weren't fluent like they should be. Then, after that, I think I just starting getting everything mixed up. Things started changing. But, I think it was more mental than anything else. It is one of the weirdest things I've ever experienced; it is literally like I forgot how to throw a baseball.
\r\n
\r\nPP: So, where exactly do you trace the problem back to?
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: I would say that the beginning of it was in 2003 because my walk totals were high and my arm was hurting. But, no one saw the full effects of it until I got to spring training in 2004. Then, from that point, it was really like a snowball effect. I just couldn't throw the ball to the catcher. Everything was going wrong. Like I said, it was one of the weirder experiences I have ever been through. I don't even know if I could explain it now.
\r\n
\r\nPP: Do you believe the problem had anything to do with a mechanical flaw?
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: Not really, actually. My mechanics may have started to get messed up afterwards but everything stemmed from something mental. I just started thinking too much and it just seemed to get worse and worse as spring training went on. It wasn't even like it was me pitching.
\r\n
\r\nPP: In the spring of 2004, were you surprised by the Yankees' decision to keep you out of game action?
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: I am not sure how surprised I was but maybe just surprised by what happened in spring training. Throwing the way I was, I don't know what would have happened had I pitched in a live game. No doubt about it, it was incredibly frustrating though. To not be able to pitch at all in a game, that was like a nightmare. I tell you what, it is something I hope me or anyone else never has to go through again.
\r\n
\r\nPP: Now, do you believe you over this problem and back to being the Mark Phillips that you were in the Padre organization?
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: I think I am back to where I was earlier on in my career. I'm throwing hard like I use to and my command is back. I couldn't be more confident than I am right now. I am throwing very well in workouts right now and I'm hoping that is going to carry over into the regular season.
\r\n
\r\nPP: Your scenario was obviously frustrating for you. How did the organization handle it?
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: Really they were great about the whole thing. I couldn't thank them enough for how much faith they had in me through all of my problems. They could have just as easily said, well it looks like you can't do it anymore so hit the road. But, they stuck with me. I don't know how many times Mark Newman told me, don't worry about it, we'll get you through this and you'll be back to what you were in no time. I know it must have been frustrating for them but they stuck with me and I'll remember that. I want to go out there this season to repay them for the faith they kept in me all this time.
\r\n
\r\nPP: Where do you expect to start off the 2005 season?
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: Well, I am really, really hoping that it is going to be AA Trenton. I'll be pushing hard and I hope that I end up on that starting rotation. If it is Tampa, of course, I can accept that, but I really hope it isn't. I want to keep moving forward with my career so Trenton would be great. Not to mention, I am from Hanover, PA so it is a little closer to home than Tampa.
\r\n
\r\nPP: Going backwards here for a moment, what was your initial reaction when you were traded to the Yankees from the Padres?
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: Oh, I was really happy. Being with the San Diego was great but the Yankees are such an amazingly classy organization in so many different ways. They had actually scouted me out of high school and they were really good to me then. In fact, their scout came to every one of my games in my senior year. No one else did that. But, I was picked 9th overall so I just didn't fall to them in the draft. But, I couldn't be happier being in this organization.
\r\n
\r\nPP: What are your main goals heading into 2005?
\r\n
\r\nPhillips: First, I am not even going to let last year come into my mind. In my mind, that is over and hopefully, nothing ever happens like that again. I am back to throwing the ball with emphasis and purpose in the strike zone. So, I'd like to carry that momentum I've built and pitch in that AA Trenton rotation. I'd also like to continue improving my changeup. I already have a real good curveball; that has never been the problem. But, if I can make my changeup, even more effective, I'll be in good shape.
\r\n
\r\n
\r\nAfter going through a season of no game action at all, it has obviously been a rocky road back for Mark Phillips. All of his problems stemmed from the head, nothing more. Perhaps it began with an achy arm but the fact is that the hard throwing lefty hasn't lost anything. He still has the same stuff as he did when the Yankees traded for him. Although he may not longer be the hot shot prospect he once was, this is no reason to give up on him just yet. He still has a lot to offer, so considering that he came back from something that perhaps only Rick Ankiel could relate to, why not sit and back, watch and see what Mark Phillips brings to the table in 2005.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Mark Phillips for his time and efforts in answering these questions. We wish him the best of luck in 2005.
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