Sep 27, 2012

Early 2000's Mets Back Up Catcher/ First Baseman: Jason Phillips (2001-2005)

Jason Lloyd Phillips was born on September 27th, 1976 at La Mesa, California. Phillips went to San Diego State University getting drafted by the New York Mets in the 24th round of the 1997 amateur draft. He hit 16 HRs with 71 RBIs between A ball St. Lucie & AA Binghamton in 1999 but hit just .248.

In 2000 he hit over .300 with the St. Lucie Mets & at AA Binghamton throwing out 40% of base runners attempting to steal. In 2001 he batted .293 at Binghamton getting promoted to AAA Norfolk. He was batting .303 at there after 19 games when he got the big league call up.

The strange looking fellow with the goggle glasses & goatee beard debuted on September 19th as a defensive replacement for Mike Piazza. In that 9th inning he was the battery mate for three brief September Mets; Dicky Gonzales, Tom Martin & C.J. Nitkowski. In just six games he was 1-7 during his September cup of coffee.

In 2002 he was batting .282 after 88 games at AAA Norfolk and was brought up again at the end of the season. In his first game that season he drove in a run going 1-3 in the second game of a double header against the Florida Marlins. On September 12th he hit his first career HR, it came at Olympic Stadium in Montreal in a 8-2 Mets win. Phillips showed some promise batting .368 (7-19).

By 2003 he playing more at first base (84 games) that at catcher (24 games). Vance Wilson was the main backup catcher & saw a lot of playing time due to Mike Piazza’s injuries. Phillips put in a solid year with career highs in batting (.298) hits (120) HRs (11) doubles (25) walks (39) & RBIs (58) while posting a .373 on base percentage. He threw out 33% of would be base stealers & only made one error in 155 chances, posting a .994 fielding percentage. At first base he posted a .990 fielding %.

During a May California raod trip he drove in runs in back to back games at San Francisco. In the second game he hit a three run HR helping the Mets to a5-1 win. On June 6th during an interleague game at Shea against the Seattle Mariners he broke a 1-1 tie hitting a HR off Ryan Franklin. The Mets went on to a 3-2 win. One of his biggest thrills was a game winning walk off single against Terry Adams & the Philadelphia Phillies on July 13th at Shea Stadium. 

That month he had a 12 game hit streak & had four different three hit games, coming at Philadelphia, Montreal & at home. He finished the month off batting at .322 on the season.

Phillips was one of the slowest runners in the game & that season grounded into 21 double plays (6th most in the NL).

In 2004 he saw the most time behind the plate as Mike Piazza was placed at first base to try to prolong his hitting career. Phillips played in 87 games at catcher, Vance Wilson played in 69 games & Piazza caught in 50 games.

Phillips struggled at the plate, hitting nowhere near his previous year’s numbers; he batted just .218 with 7 HRs 18 doubles & 34 RBIs in 128 games. In mid May he had a three RBI day against the Astros in Houston & then drove in runs in five of his next six games. On May 30th he hit a pair of HRs in a 8-6 loss to the Marlins in Florida. The next day he hit yet another HR in a 5-3 win at Philadelphia. 

In the off season the Mets acquired Ramon Castro & the solid defensive catcher Mike DiFelice to back up Piazza, as Wilsons days were numbered.

In Spring Training of 2005 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kaz Ishii. In Los Angeles he played in 128 games, becoming the Dodgers main catcher. He hit 10 HRs with 20 doubles & 55 RBIs while batting .238. He threw out only 20% of would be base stealers posting a .991 fielding percentage, also seeing some action at first base. He was granted free agency as Russell Martin took over the Dodgers catching duties for 2006. Phillips signed in Toronto with the Blue Jays and got a few breaks remaining on the club on for two seasons.

In 2006 he saw some action when main catcher Greg Zaun went down with injury. Then later in the year was brought up to replace Shea Hillenbrand’s roster spot. Phillips saw action in 25 games as a utility player batting .250. In 2007 he got a chance to play when more Bengie Molina left Toronto for free agency. He played in 55 games batting just .208 playing (158 at bats) in his last season in the majors. 

After his MLB playing days he played one season in the Australian Baseball League, then eventually in the Atlantic League with Camden. He would sign a deal with Atlanta playing at the AAA level for the Braves but was released.

In February 2009 he received an invitation to the Seattle Mariners spring camp. He didn’t make the Mariners club but was offered a job as bullpen catcher. He finished his seven year big league career batting .249 with 344 hits in 465 games played, 30 HRs 77 doubles, 168 RBIs & a .994 fielding percentage, throwing out 21 % of would be base stealers.

Retirement: During a warm up practice one day, in he made eye contact with a girl in the stands; they kept looking at each other throughout a game. Phillips tossed her a ball with his number on it & she texted messaged him and the two decided to meet. Soon they were deep in love, and got married in June 2010 at a ceremony held in the bullpen at Safeco Field. Phillips is the older brother of San Diego Padre Kyle Phillips.

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