Evan Phillips Grew Into Finding Comfort Without Set Role In Dodgers Bullpen

The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen was a strength for most of the 2022 season, but the group struggled when it mattered most in a National League Division Series Game 4 loss to the San Diego Padres.

The Dodgers held a 3-0 lead and were nine outs away from forcing a winner-take-all matchup at Dodger Stadium, but the combination of Tommy Kahnle, Yency Almonte and Alex Vesia allowed five runs in the seventh inning, which was all the Padres needed to secure a 5-3 victory.

Evan Phillips, who has been the Dodgers’ relief ace all season, was slated to pitch the ninth inning had the team maintained their lead, but that never came about.

The right-hander didn’t have a set role in the bullpen but primarily was used in the seventh and eighth innings. “Our staff does a great job of communicating what might be expected of us each and every night,” Phillips said.

“So I think on a day-to-day basis they approach us with maybe a stretch of hitters or a line of innings that they’re expecting out of us. They do a great job of letting us know early enough to where we can prepare in the bullpen.

“Even if they don’t, even if for whatever reason they haven’t communicated that message, each of us has a good feel for what the starting pitcher is doing and when we need to prepare and how we need to move around and get ready to go in and pitch.”

Phillips acknowledged the Dodgers construct their bullpen differently than most teams but believes every pitcher understands the reasoning behind it. “I think we’ve somewhat done it this way all season,” Phillips began.

“Unfortunately we lost Blake (Treinen) early and Daniel Hudson shortly after that. Outside of the ninth inning early in the year, we didn’t really have defined roles and it was just going out there and getting the guys out that we were called upon for.

“I think the nature of what our bullpen has done this whole season, everyone has somewhat just bought into that idea of when the phone rings and your name is called, you go out there and you get your outs.”

Even without a defined role, Phillips enjoyed a career year that saw him put up some of the best numbers of any relief pitcher in baseball. In 64 appearances, he went 7-3 with a 1.14 ERA, 1.94 FIP and 0.76 WHIP across 63 innings pitched, and threw an additional 6.1 scoreless frames during the postseason.

Evan Phillips appreciates Dodgers thinking outside the box

Prior to being selected off waivers by the Dodgers last year, Phillips spent the bulk of his career with the Baltimore Orioles, who are more traditional in terms of game-planning.

“You know, it’s hard for me to really expand on that because in my prior organizations, Baltimore, we didn’t really have as many defined roles,” Phillips answered when asked to compare how the Dodgers approach certain situations from the other teams he’s played for.

“It was more so who’s available to pitch that night. It’s much different with a winning ballclub that’s got the idea of winning the World Series. This is the first time I’ve really experienced anything like this.

“But just as a baseball fan and watching games growing up, it felt like there was always that sixth-, seventh-, eight-, ninth-inning guy. But I think the Dodgers have kind of invented this new way of approach to a bullpen, you could say.

“And I think you’ve seen it work for us most of the season. It’s just a more focused approach on getting certain hitters out and understanding what pitcher may have an advantage over those guys each and every night.”

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