Through his brief professional career, Dunedin Blue Jays pitcher Randy Phillips has had one lucky break after another.
Last year, for example, he was drafted in the 26th round and sent to Class A (short season) Medicine Hat. A starter at Arkansas State, he was designated for the bullpen. But when a starter was injured, Phillips was placed in the rotation, finishing with just 25 walks, 88 hits and a 3.36 ERA in 91 innings.
Expecting a promotion this year to a long-season Class A club, Phillips, 22, was confined to extended spring training. But He was lucky again. On April 29, he was promoted to Dunedin as a result of Paul Spoljaric's promotion to Knoxville. Thrust into the rotation, Phillips lost his debut against Sarasota 2-1, but pitched 6 innings with 10 strikeouts.
"After I was drafted, I started in the bullpen and I was surprised because I'm a lot more confident as a starter," said Phillips, who was recently named to the FSL all-star team. "I got a pretty good break when someone got hurt. I was really disappointed at the start of this year, and I got another good break when Spoljaric got moved up. I'm just trying to fill his shoes."
"Sometimes a guy can be overlooked," said Dunedin manager Dennis Holmberg. "First-year players sometimes have to take a back seat to players who have two or three years on them. I had heard good things about him, but I didn't know a whole lot about him. He was at the right place at the right time and it was a lucky break for him and us that he was so close by."
Phillips has emerged as the Blue Jays' ace with a 5-1 record, 18 earned runs, 51 hits and just eight walks through 64 innings. Opponents are batting just .215 against him. His success is a result of just one thing _ control.
"He's not afraid to throw strikes," said Holmberg. "He's the kind of guy who's not going to beat himself. He will dictate the outcome of the game and not let the offense dictate him. He's been a pleasant surprise."
Clearwater: The Phillies have won 14 of their last 16 en route to their fifth first-half title. They clinched the western division title Wednesday by defeating the Cardinals 6-1 in the second game of a doubleheader.
LF Phil Geisler was named FSL player of the week for the week of June 7. He batted .429 with six RBI and hit for the cycle while collecting five hits on June 13 versus Fort Lauderdale. Geisler is only the second player in the league this year to have five hits in a game. 1B Jon Zuber has hit in 22 of his last 23 games and is in the top 10 in batting in the league at .327. C Jason Moler is batting .455 during an eight-game hitting streak. Through his last 17 games he is hitting .491. In 21 appearances, reliever Mike Juhl is 2-1 with four saves and an 0.96 ERA.
St. Petersburg: The Cardinals' winning streak was snapped at 10 on Wednesday by the Phillies. It was the club's longest win streak in five years. Since moving to the leadoff spot on May 9, OF Terry Bradshaw raised his batting average from .170 to .325. During that time, spanning 32 games, Bradshaw has scored 28 runs and has stolen 12 bases.
Starter Jason Hisey, out since May 23 with pain in his right elbow, is expected to start next week, making him available for next week's all-star game. 1B Dmitri Young has hit three of his five home runs in the bottom of seventh inning at home. The Cardinals lead the league in team ERA at 3.03. Aaron Holbert has 14 hits in his last 35 at-bats. Despite not making the all-star team, OF Doug Radziewicz leads the league in hitting at .356. Dan Cholowsky was promoted to Class AA Arkansas on Monday.
Dunedin: Rob Butler, last year's league batting champion, was promoted from Class AAA Syracuse to Toronto as a result of the Blue Jays trading Darrin Jackson to the Mets. Butler has hit in all four games he has played for Toronto. Meanwhile, his brother, Rich, named to the FSL all-star team, is hitting .344 since June 1. Butler's selection to the all-star team marks the fourth straight year a Canadian has represented Dunedin.
OF Don Sheppard was promoted to Class AA Knoxville. 2B Felipe Crespo is batting .340 since June 1. Reliever Kurt Heble has not allowed a run in 12 appearances. Reliever Ricardo Jordan has allowed just one run in his last 10 innings. The Blue Jays lead the league in stolen bases with 80. OF Todd Steverson, last year's No. 1 pick out of Arizona State, is on pace to break the Blue Jays record for doubles. He currently has 21 and the record, held by Jeff Kent since 1990, is 32.