Phillips boosts Jays to take series
Chacin holds Twins to three runs in 6 2/3 innings
TORONTO -- Jason Phillips stood at his locker, surrounded by TV cameras, and spoke about Toronto's latest game for all the sports highlight shows later that night. What he probably didn't realize was that he still had shaving cream on his face.
The leftover cream was courtesy of Toronto's Vernon Wells, who doused Phillips with the white foam minutes after the Blue Jays sealed a 6-3 win over the Twins on Thursday at Rogers Centre.
Why the rookie treatment? Because it was Wells' way of officially welcoming Phillips to the Jays after the catcher delivered the deciding blow in the series finale -- a two-run single in the sixth inning that gave Toronto the lead for good.
"When you've got a leader on your team that's accepting me, that's always a good thing," said a smiling Phillips, who's jersey was covered with shaving cream, too.
Wells isn't the only person that has accepted Phillips. Ever since Toronto (2-1) signed the catcher to a Minor League contract this past offseason, the organization has been backing his services. When the club signed free agent Bengie Molina, Phillips was forced out of the reserve job, though.
That all changed when backup catcher Gregg Zaun landed on the 15-day disabled list with an injured right calf muscle.
Now, Phillips is clinging to a Major League position and the Blue Jays don't seem like they want to part with him. Keeping him on the roster could become difficult, though, considering that when Zaun is eligible to come off the DL on Saturday, Phillips would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the Minors. It also seems unlikely that Toronto would carry three catchers.
Another team would probably want to scoop up the five-year veteran and Toronto manager John Gibbons doesn't seem like he wants to see that happen.
"I've always been a fan of the guy. He played for me in Triple-A," said Gibbons, who managed Phillips in the Mets' organization in 2001. "He's been in the big leagues the last few years. He's had some success. He's played in some tough towns -- in New York and L.A. -- So that doesn't phase him. He's not a Minor League player. He's a big league player."
Those last words would seem to imply that sending Phillips to Triple-A upon Zaun's return might not be the only possibility. What is going to happen, though, isn't exactly clear.
"Maybe he won't go somewhere else. You don't know," Gibbons said. "If there was a team that wanted a catcher, or needed to upgrade [he would probably get picked up]. It might not even happen. I don't know."
For now, Phillips knows his future with Toronto is uncertain and he's going to try and take advantage of every chance he can get to prove worthy of his current job. That's what he did against the Twins (1-2).
On Thursday, Phillips started behind the plate for pitcher Gustavo Chacin, who the Blue Jays hoped could go deep into the game to save the bullpen some work. With Phillips calling the game, Chacin (1-0) allowed three runs, struck out four and lasted 6 2/3 innings -- more than enough time for Toronto's offense to do some damage.
With the score tied at 2 in the sixth inning, Minnesota starter Carlos Silva (0-1) loaded the bases with two outs. Phillips walked to the plate, already with two flyouts in the game, and had his window of opportunity.
He pulled a single to left that scored Lyle Overbay and Shea Hillenbrand and Toronto never looked back.
"We played hard and Phillips did a great job behind home plate," Chacin said. "He got the base hit, two runs and we went ahead. That did it right there."
Phillips was proud of the hit, but he was more pleased with how he handled the pitchers. The game before, Toronto's bullpen was forced into the game in the fifth inning and the relievers were stretched thin on Thursday. After Chacin exited the game, Pete Walker and Justin Speier held Minnesota in check. Then, closer B.J. Ryan tossed a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his second save.
"It's a new role for me. I'm going to be backing up at best, so I'm more worried about defense right now and getting pitchers through ballgames," Phillips said. "[I'm] getting comfortable with what they want to throw and when they want to throw it. I'm definitely doing a lot more homework.
"I'm not studying as much on the offensive side because you've got a lot of other guys that are going to produce offensively," he added. "So I have to concentrate defensively and let the big boys swing the bat. But it was good that I got a good hit tonight."
The hit helped win the series over the Twins and it won Phillips some acceptance in the clubhouse -- even if that does mean getting some shaving cream in his face. That's something that the catcher looks at as a good thing.
"I've been in some bad situations and I don't see that here," Phillips said. "I see guys that are going to pick each other up and you're going to be friends no matter what happens on the field."
Or perhaps regardless of what moves are made off it.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.