01/17/13 7:46 PM ET
Phillips thrilled to play for Team USA in Classic
Initially apprehensive, Reds second baseman swayed by team manager Torre
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
Phillips, who is currently the lone Reds player on the American squad, was elated to receive the invitation.
"I'm very honored to represent the country," Phillips said. "I can't wait to wear the red, white and blue on my chest. It's something I've always wanted to do."
Even so, there was still some trepidation on Phillips' part before finally making the commitment. A phone call from Team USA manager Joe Torre helped sway his decision.
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"He's one of the best managers in baseball and was a great player also," Phillips said. "I was going back and forth on doing it. I didn't know if I wanted to really play in the WBC at the beginning. But my conversation with Joe Torre and everything he was saying to me, he convinced me to do it. I always wanted to do it in the past, and seeing how it was on TV and everything -- [but also] all the players getting hurt or starting off real slow during the season."
Also participating in the World Baseball Classic are three Minor League players from the Reds' organization: shortstop Ray Chang for China, right-handed pitcher Loek Van Mil for the Netherlands and left-handed pitcher Chris Manno for Spain. Manno was with Double-A Pensacola last season, while Van Mil and Chang were signed as free agents over the winter.
A two-time National League All-Star and three-time NL Gold Glove Award winner, the 31-year-old Phillips batted .281 with 18 home runs and 77 RBIs in 2012 for the Reds.
This will be Phillips' first World Baseball Classic. The final 28-man roster must be submitted by Feb. 20. Phillips will have the opportunity to play alongside fellow American infielders like Mets third baseman David Wright, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Yankees.
During the 2012 regular season, Phillips was omitted from the NL All-Star roster. After the season, he was denied a third Gold Glove when the Cubs' Darwin Barney won it for the first time. Phillips wasn't pleased about either snub, so it makes the honor of playing for his country all the better.
"I'm still excited right now. I just can't believe it," Phillips said. "I thought something crazy was going to happen again, especially after the season that just happened and everything that happened to me and other things that happened. Other than that, I'm just very happy to be on this team."
Team USA is scheduled begin training in Phoenix on March 4 and then compete in first-round play with Pool D at Chase Field from March 8-10. Also in the pool are teams from Canada, Mexico and Italy.
The Reds hold Spring Training in nearby Goodyear, Ariz., which will make the logistics a little easier. Phillips can begin Spring Training with the Reds when the full squad reports on Feb. 15 and possibly play in the first 10 days of Cactus League games.
If the American team continues to advance, Round 2 is slated from March 12-16 at Marlins Park in Miami and the semifinals and finals are scheduled from March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Phillips would likely be away from his big league club for as long as Team USA is taking part in the Classic.
The month of March is usually about gradually preparing for the regular season and playing in exhibition games that lack pressure or intensity. Phillips will have to be game-ready to play in the Classic, and also getting ready to play 162 games for Cincinnati.
"I started a little bit early this year," Phillips said of his offseason workouts. "I don't want to look stupid on TV. I know Spring Training is about preparing for the season. In this, you're going out to compete and win for the country. So I've been working my butt off real hard. It's kind of different the things I'm doing right now. Hopefully it pays off a little bit. It's very different than what I've been doing every year. Hopefully nothing changes. I hope I have the same success.
"I'm still going to be preparing for the Reds season. I'm still going to go out there and do my thing like I always do every year. I'm just really looking forward to the WBC. I can't wait to wear the USA on my chest and play next to these All-Star guys. I can learn a lot from them also. Maybe they can help me be a better player."