The Tampa Bay Rays signed minor league starting pitcher Heath Phillips on Thursday.
Phillips will join the Durham Bulls’ starting rotation, filling in while Jeremy Cummings is in China pitching for the US National Team during the Olympics. The 26-year-old left-hander, who posted a 3.68 ERA in six relief appearances for the Chicago White Sox at the end of 2007, played a huge role in the infamous spring training brawl between Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees this March. He plunked Evan Longoria in retaliation for Elliot Johnson’s hard slide into home plate that broke the wrist of New York catching prospect Francisco Cervelli, prompting an ensuing brawl involving outfielder Shelley Duncan.
When camp broke, Phillips was sent to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, where he went 3-5 with a 5.50 ERA and opponents’ batting average of .303 in 35 appearances, including four starts, before getting released. Just two years ago he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher in the International League, posting a 2.96 ERA while collecting 13 wins for the Charlotte Knights. A two-way star at Lake City Community College in Florida, he was selected in the 10th round by Chicago back in the 2000 First-Year draft.
This ends the recent talk about David Price, who earned his fifth win at Double-A on Monday, taking Cummings’ spot in the rotation. Price, however, is expected to make a few starts at Durham in the near future before making his major league debut, expected to occur in the next couple of weeks.
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