Phillips proving to be viable option
With Torrealba nearing return, catcher showing value in bigs
OAKLAND -- Rockies catcher Paul Phillips has earned playing time from manager Jim Tracy by executing hitting strategy. It's not the first time handling the bat has been an incentive.
"I can remember in high school, when our coach would give us a hit-and-run during batting practice, if you hit the ball to the right side of the infield you got extra swings," Phillips said. "It was a reward. It was fun in high school to hit and hit and hit."
Phillips has hit for the Rockies since being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 24. Phillips has a .325 batting average with one home run and seven RBIs. He didn't start Sunday against the Athletics, but he has a career-best seven-game hit streak.
Tracy noted that Phillips has put up numbers through unselfishness.
Phillips had a successful hit-and-run attempt against the Cardinals early in his time with the club, and Tracy has trusted him with the bat since. One failure, against the Brewers, actually helped Phillips win more trust.
"Paul just looked at me as I started the conversation and said, 'Trace, it was a hittable pitch,'" Tracy said. "End of conversation. He knows the trust I have in him in putting runners in motion, and he said to me, 'I messed up.'"
Tracy has asked Phillips on at least two occasions to perform a suicide squeeze. Once against the Pirates, the opposition saw it was coming, so it failed. Tracy tried it again with Phillips in the fourth inning of Saturday night's 11-9 victory over the Athletics. Trevor Cahill's pitch was far outside, but Phillips tossed his bat at the ball to tick a foul ball and prevent Carlos Gonzalez from being tagged out.
Tracy called off the squeeze, but Phillips achieved a positive result with a sacrifice fly to center.
The Rockies are nearing a decision with Phillips. Yorvit Torrealba, who hasn't played since June 1 because of the kidnapping -- and successful release -- of his son and two family members, is nearing the end of a brief rehab period granted by Major League Baseball. In three games at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Torrealba has hit .273 (3-for-11). He is scheduled to play first base on Sunday.
No matter what happens, Phillips, who has appeared in the Majors each of the last six seasons, has established himself as a viable option offensively and defensively at the Major League level.
"If I can have quality at-bats, giving the manager the opportunity to ask a guy to hit-and-run or bunt a guy over or squeeze, anything like that, that just gives any player more value," Phillips said. "If you're doing that, you're going to have a good chance to stay wherever you're playing."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.