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For Rays’ Brett Phillips, giveaway day an ‘absolutely crazy’ honor

Notes | The Seminole native says having a promotional giveaway (and a hoops jersey at that) is special, and teammates make it more so.
Rays outfielder Brett Phillips models the basketball jersey given to fans Saturday and shows the inspiration for it in the photo on his phone.
Rays outfielder Brett Phillips models the basketball jersey given to fans Saturday and shows the inspiration for it in the photo on his phone. [ MARC TOPKIN | Times ]
Published Jul. 30|Updated Jul. 30

ST. PETERSBURG — Agent Tom O’Connell likes to say that no one has ever enjoyed playing for the Rays more than outfielder Brett Phillips, who grew up in Seminole rooting for his hometown team.

And Phillips said Saturday was one of the most memorable days he has ever had — Game 4 of the 2020 World Series aside, we presume — as the Rays had a promotional giveaway in his honor.

The Devil Rays basketball jersey was modeled after one Phillips, 28, wore for his fourth birthday, and was shown in a family photo that had made its way to social media.

“This is very exciting for me to, first of all, to have a giveaway of something in the big leagues. What an honor to be able to make it to this point in my in my career,” he said, showing the childhood picture on his phone. “Inspired by this dude right here — 24 years ago he wore around his favorite Devil Rays basketball jersey. ... Here we are, in my hometown, a giveaway. Crazy. Just absolutely crazy.”

Everything about the day excited him: The near-sellout crowd of 22,756 that cheered him, the hour he spent after the game signing autographs to thank fans, the way his teammates donned the jersey in the clubhouse and for pre-game work on the field — hitting, fielding and throwing off a mound in the tank tops.

“It’s so cool,” Phillips said. “I came in here and all the guys had it on. That’s this team. This team supports each other.”

The jersey looked good on some of the taller Rays, such as outfielder Luke Raley and pitchers Pete Fairbanks, Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Thompson. As for who wasn’t exactly rocking it?

“(Brandon Lowe) when he first came in had like a (size) XXL on or XL,” Phillips said. “It was going past his shorts. And it was a bad look. He’s like ‘Really guys? Really?’ So that was pretty funny. But we got him a (size) large and he fills it out.”

Medical matters

Lefty Jalen Beeks was reinstated from the injured list Saturday after the minimum 15-day stint due to tightness in his right knee and calf. Beeks, who threw two innings of a simulated game Wednesday in Port Charlotte, said he is glad to be back, especially after missing all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“It’s nice to see everybody again,” he said. “I don’t like not working. It feels like you’re not working when you’re on the IL, so it’s a little tough. Did enough of that last year.”

Right-hander Luke Bard was optioned to Triple-A to make room, the Rays’ 69th roster move in July and 163rd for the season.

Right-hander JT Chargois (oblique strain) threw a six-pitch inning Friday in his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Durham. Right-hander Nick Anderson (elbow surgery) was slated to throw for the Bulls on Saturday night.

Draft breeze

In addition to signing top pick Xavier Isaac for the slot value of $2,548,900, the Rays made over-slot deals for two promising pitchers: Sixth-round right-hander Gary Gill Hill, a Wake Forest commit from Kennedy Catholic High in New York, got $597,500 (slot was $255,500); ninth-round lefty Chris Villaman, from North Carolina State, got $325,000 (slot was $157,000).

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Saturday afternoon they signed 20th-round right-hander Matt Wyatt, of Virginia, for $260,000. That puts 20 of their 22 picks under contract in advance of Monday’s deadline. It appears 17th-round lefty Levi Huesman, of Hanover (Va.) High, and 19th-round lefty Quinn Mathews, of Stanford, won’t sign.

Miscellany

With a win Sunday the Rays will avoid their first series loss to Cleveland since August 2017. ... Veteran right-hander Chase Anderson, 34, signed a minor-league deal and joined Triple-A Durham. Anderson is 56-46, 4.20 over parts of eight seasons with the Diamondbacks, Brewers, Phillies and Jays. … Joe West, who retired in February after 45 years as an umpire, was at the Trop on Saturday doing an interview as part of a documentary. He lives in the Orlando area.

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