For much of baseball’s three-day draft of amateur free agents, Alex Phillips kept busy to keep his mind occupied.
Phillips, a 2008 Tenino High School graduate who just wrapped up his collegiate career as a reliever at Kentucky, was uncertain where he would go, or whether he’d get the phone call all draftees get when they’re selected.
“I was in the dark,” Phillips said Wednesday from Lexington, Ky. “I had no idea where I would go.”
Phillips, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound left-handed pitcher, was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round (664th overall pick) Wednesday, and became the first player from Tenino drafted since Zane Gamewell was selected in the 48th round by the Cleveland Indians in 1994 out of Tenino High School.
“The last few days, it’s been tight,” Phillips said. “I’ve just been trying to stay occupied. … If the call comes, you’re thankful for it.”
Phillips, 22, first learned of his selection via a congratulatory text message from Kentucky assistant coach Brian Green before the call came from the Tigers. Phillips had been on the phone with his father, Roger, who was giving encouragement before Green’s text message appeared midway through the conversation. A quick check on the Major League Baseball website confirmed the news.
At Tenino, Phillips was the MVP of the Southwest Washington 1A Evergreen Division as a senior in 2008, leading the Beavers to the 1A state regional. He pitched for two years at Lower Columbia College before finishing his final two years at Kentucky. After two seasons with the Wildcats, he ranks seventh for career saves (10). This season, he anchored the bullpen with eight saves. He posted a 5-2 record with a 3.03 earned-run average. He held opposing batters to a .206 average and struck out 50 in 59 innings.
Phillips becomes the fourth South Sound player taken during this draft. The Philadelphia Phillies selected W.F. West senior Mitch Gueller at No. 54 overall Monday, Centralia senior Andrew Pullin in the fifth round (No. 188 overall) Tuesday, and the Seattle Mariners drafted former W.F. West player Levi Dean in the 23rd round Wednesday.
Dean spent two years at Lower Columbia College before heading to Tennessee Wesleyan, where he went 5-4 with a save and a 4.38 ERA in 18 games as a junior.
The Mariners used Day 3 – rounds 16 to 40 – to draft 25 players. Of those, 16 were pitchers. The Mariners also took two catchers after not taking one on the second day.
Mariners director of amateur scouting Tom McNamara was upbeat about the club’s efforts.
“We feel real good about the players we drafted,” McNamara said.
Perhaps the most noticeable name was Vanderbilt right fielder Mike Yastrzemski, the grandson of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who was picked in the 30th round.
On the third day of the draft, McNamara wanted to make sure his scouts and cross-checkers didn’t give in to the lateness of the rounds or the length of the draft.
“What I try to tell our guys is that there are big leaguers from rounds 16 to 40, and we have to keep grinding,” McNamara said.
Every scout knows the stories of former All-Stars who were taken in those rounds: Jason Bay (22nd round), Jeff Kent (20th), Travis Hafner (31st) and, of course, Mike Piazza (62nd – the 50-round limit wasn’t introduced until 1998; the 40-round limit went into effect this season).
Whether someone like that exists in the 25 players the Mariners drafted Wednesday remains to be seen.Staff writer Ryan Divish contributed to this report.