Phillips
Phillips
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Brandon Phillips was struck by the oddity of being traded to a team that includes 43-year-old pitcher Bartolo Colon.

“It’s crazy being on the same team with the guy I got traded for,” the new Atlanta Braves second baseman said Friday after his first spring training workout. “I think we’re the only two players who played with the Expos that are still playing now.”

Actually Phillips, now 35, never made it up to the Montreal Expos, who became the Washington Nationals in 2005. On June 7, 2002, the Expos traded Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Lee Stevens to Cleveland for Colon and Tim Drew.

“I was mad,” Phillips recalled. “I was leaving my friends. I had a lot of friends going back to ’99 and going through the minor league system with the Expos. But me, Sizemore, Cliff Lee — we were all close, and it was like: ‘OK, we can go to the Indians and see what happens.’”

Colon and Lee won Cy Young Awards and Sizemore became a star briefly with the Indians. Phillips was traded four years later to Cincinnati, where he became a four-time All-Star. The rebuilding Reds dealt him to Atlanta last weekend,

“It took some work, but the Braves worked with me and we got it done,” Phillips said. “I wanted it to happen a long time ago, but things happen from different sides and I never thought it would happen.”

Until last weekend he was preparing to go back to Arizona and begin a 12th season with the Reds.

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up and then end up back in Cincinnati with my head down a little bit,” he said.

The Braves traded minor league pitchers Andrew McKirahan and Carlos Portuondo for Phillips in a deal that was finalized shortly after the team learned that Sean Rodriguez will need shoulder surgery. Signed to a two-year contract in November, Rodriguez was expected to be Atlanta’s second baseman until being injured in a January traffic accident that might sideline him for the entire season.

Phillips is a 1999 graduate of Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia,

Braves manager Brian Snitker, who had seen Phillips only in a Cincinnati uniforn until Friday, noted that he “always played the game easy. He made plays and he never panicked. He slowed the game down.” Snitker, who will conduct the Braves’ first full-squad workout on Saturday, said Phillips’ physical condition appears to be as good as anyone in camp.

His mental condition was also pretty good Friday. Phillips sat in the Braves dugout and thought about that first time he was traded, almost 15 years ago.

“I don’t know much about baseball back then. I was just about playing and trying to live my dream,” he said. “And I’m still dreaming. I haven’t woke up yet, and I’m going to keep going on that dream.”

Braves Going Older

Going after veterans like Phillips and Colon appears to be the trend in Atlanta. The Braves also signed 42-year-old R.A. Dickey and 30-year-old Jaime Garcia to fortify their pitching staff.

“Hopefully this is not a rebuild,” said veteran left fielder Matt Kemp, who came in a trade from San Diego at the end of July and was not around for the dismal start that doomed Atlanta to a last-place finish. “I want to win baseball games. I feel we can go out there and win, especially with these veteran guys we’re bringing in.”

The Braves had a winning record after the All-Star break.

The three new right-handers, who combined for 92 starts last season, were brought in to give the Braves a chance to contend.

“We knew we needed some veteran guys we could get the ball to,” Snitker said. “It was the thing we really didn’t have last year because of injuries and trades and what not. We wanted guys we could bring in and give some time to the young arms that we have in the organization.”
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