Pirates’ Phillip Evans gets ‘home’ games this week at Petco Park

It has been 11 years and dozens of stops across four countries since Phillip Evans last played a baseball game in Petco Park.

“The 2010 Aflac All-American Game, that was it,” Evans said of the national high school all-star game that is now known as the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

Monday, Evans and his Pittsburgh Pirates teammates, including shortstop Kevin Newman from Poway High and pitchers Steven Brault from Grossmont High (who is injured) and Trevor Cahill from Vista, started a three-game series with the Padres.

Evans, an All-CIF shortstop at La Costa Canyon, was drafted in the 15th round in 2011 by the New York Mets. He spurned a scholarship at San Diego State to sign with the Mets.

That started an odyssey that has taken him to stops in Brooklyn, Port St. Lucie, Binghamton, Las Vegas, Iowa in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

He has played for the Mexican National Team in international competitions. And he played against Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. in the Dominican Winter League.

“He was exciting then, a special player,” Evans said.

Finally in 2017, after 801 games and 3,188 plate appearances in the minor leagues, Evans was called to the big leagues by the Mets where he played 19 games that season and 15 in 2018.

He was granted free agency after that season, signed with the Chicago Cubs, but played all of 2019 in the minor leagues, signing with the Pirates in December of that season when he made the club as a nonroster player.

He was hitting .359 after 11 games when his career nearly ended.

Playing third and chasing a foul ball, he collided with Gregory Polanco in left field. Polanco walked away, Evans was carried off the field on stretcher, placed in an ambulance and was later diagnosed with a broken jaw and a concussion.

He missed the rest of the shortened season.

“I’m close to 100 percent,” said Evans, who is still a rookie. “I still have a little soreness in my mouth, but it doesn’t affect my play.”

Evans has played third base, first base, right field, left field and even pitched a scoreless inning against the Cincinnati Reds, getting three lazy fly balls.

“I think I’m the Pirates type of player,” Evans said. “I’m a grind-it-out player.

“I guess you’d call me a late bloomer, but I’ve gotten better every year. I can play multiple positions. Playing shortstop early in my career has helped with the versatility aspect. I take a shortstop’s approach to every position.

“I put in a lot of extra work to stay sharp at all the positions, and it’s tiring. But you need to do it. And I appreciate the history of the Pirates franchise.”

Evans believes his career turned in 2016 when he won the batting championship at Double-A Binghamton, hitting .335.

A year later, he was in the big leagues.

“There was a point, knocking around the minors, where I wasn’t sure it would ever happen,” Evans said. “But winning that batting title resurrected my career.

“I got in better shape. I was healthy after a bunch of injuries. And I got some balls to fall in. Things took off from there.”

After a fast start this season, Evans came into San Diego in a 2-for-28 slump. He entered Monday’s game hitting .221 with four homers and seven RBIs after 24 games.

“Last year, before he got hurt, he had really consistent at-bats,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of Evans, who had a single and a walk in four plate appearances Monday. “And he carried on and continued that this season.

“He has hit the ball right on the nose. He’s taking good swings.”

Evans started his first professional game in Petco Park playing left field and batting fifth. He begged and borrowed tickets from teammates to ensure he had “a bunch of family and friends” in the stands, including LCC coach Justin Machado and the Mavericks staff. Evans is dating Machado’s daughter, Cameron.

“The hitting will come back,” he said. I’ve hit a lot of balls hard, balls will fall in. I want to keep playing great defense, I want our pitchers to have confidence in me no matter where I’m playing.”

The fact is, he is playing. And he’s home in May for the first time in a decade.

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San Diego Pirates

LHP Steven Brault (Grossmont HS)

In his sixth year with the Pirates, Brault had a strong spring. But he suffered a lat strain and has yet to pitch this season. He’s 12-15 with a 4.68 ERA in 100 games, 45 starts.

RHP Trevor Cahill (Vista HS)

An All-Star with Oakland in 2010, Cahill is in his 13th season in the majors, first with Pittsburgh. He’s 1-3 this season with a 7.40 ERA in five starts. He’s 86-97 with a 4.25 ERA in 327 career games, 230 starts.

IF/OF Phillip Evans (La Costa Canyon HS)

In his second season with the Pirates. Batting .225 after a single Monday.

SS Kevin Newman (Poway HS)

The team’s everyday shortstop, Newman is hitting just .191 with a homer and 6 RBIs. His career average in 230 games is .269.




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