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Spokane Indians

Phillips makes strong start, Indians beat Vancouver 5-0

Josh Horton joshh@spokesman.com

Tyler Phillips, making his first pro start in Class A ball, admitted he was nervous heading into Saturday night’s game.

The Texas Rangers’ No. 30 overall prospect did not succumb to the pressure. Phillips pitched five scoreless innings and allowed two hits with four strikeouts in the Spokane Indians’ 5-0 Northwest League win over the Vancouver Canadians at Avista Stadium.

“It was a great start for him tonight. He went right after guys,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “He was ahead in the count most of the night and made the pitches when he needed to.”

Phillips, who was taken in the 16th round of the 2015 MLB draft, pitched 15 innings for the AZL Rangers in rookie ball last season, working exclusively out of the bullpen. But in Spokane, the plan is to mold the 18-year-old right-hander into a starter.

“He’s got starter stuff,” Hulett said. “He’s got all the pitches, all the mixes. He showed what he could do tonight.”

Phillips said most of his nerves came from playing in front of the biggest crowd he’s played in front of. After a season in the Arizona rookie league, where the environment is closer to a scrimmage, he says he could get used to playing in Spokane.

“When you hear all the fans scream for you, it gives you chills,” Phillips said.

The Indians’ bullpen combined to give up only one hit in four innings after Phillips’ departure. C.D. Pelham, Alex Daniele, Christian Torres and Kaleb Fontenot each threw one scoreless inning.

Darius Day hit an RBI double to right-center field to score Josh Merrigan in the second inning for the game’s first run. Seth Spivey scored on a wild pitch from Vancouver starter Dalton Rodriguez and Chad Smith lined an RBI single to push the Indians lead to three.

The Indians added another run in the sixth inning, as Spivey was plunked by Matthew Smoral with the bases loaded to score Stephen Lohr. Spivey hit an RBI double to left field to push Spokane’s lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the eighth.

While it was an improvement offensively from Friday’s game – in which the Indians only generated five hits – there is still room to grow at the plate, according to Hulett. Spokane was 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 base runners on Saturday.

“We had a couple situations where we could have put up a crooked number and we didn’t,” Hulett said.

Spivey went 2 for 4 with two doubles and drove in two runs to lead the offense. While it was Spivey’s offense that was on full display tonight, Hulett said his defense behind the plate was what stood out to him.

“He really received the ball nice tonight,” Hulett said of Spivey, who is transitioning from infielder to catcher this season.

Blaine Prescott and Day also posted doubles for Spokane. Stephen Lohr went 2 for 4 with a pair of singles.