Phillips packs bags without destination

Phillips packs bags without destination

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Brandon Phillips slowly packed up his belongings and prepared to wave his final goodbye to the Chain of Lakes complex and the Indians organization.

At this moment Wednesday, Phillips was still an Indian. But mere minutes earlier, he had been informed that he is being traded to another club.

Which club?

"I don't know nothing," Phillips said.

The Indians weren't saying, either, and it appeared a definitive deal had not been worked out. What is definitive is that Phillips, who is out of options, won't be on the Tribe's Opening Day roster and he will either be traded or exposed to waivers Saturday, when the roster is set.

"For the next three days, I'm still an Indian, in case somebody gets hurt," Phillips said. "You've got to take it how it is, you know?"

Phillips, 24, will take it back home to Georgia.

"I can't stay around here," he said.

The irony of a day in which Grady Sizemore, another prospect brought to the Indians in the 2002 trade that sent Bartolo Colon to the Expos, received a six-year contract and Phillips got the boot was not lost on Phillips.

"That should have been me," Phillips said, referring to Sizemore's deal.

When the trade was made, Phillips was the can't-miss prospect who served as the Tribe's prized acquisition.

Cocky and confident, he was expected to be the club's second baseman for years to come. He even showed up to Spring Training in 2003 wearing sneakers that advertised him as "The Franchise."

That franchise, unfortunately, folded quickly.

Phillips was the team's Opening Day second baseman in 2003, but a .210 average at the All-Star break bought him a ticket to Triple-A Buffalo.

When the offseason rolled around, the Indians made signing a veteran to man second base a priority, and they brought in Ronnie Belliard.

Phillips responded with a strong '04 season at Buffalo, batting .303 with eight homers and 50 RBIs.

The Indians signed Belliard again.

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"I had one bad year in 2003," Phillips said. "In my eyes, I feel like I've been penalized for that one bad year. It's all about rebuilding, and I thought I was on the rebuilding thing. I struggled, and they signed Belliard. I had a good year at Triple-A, and they signed Belliard again."

Dejected by the realities of baseball's business side, Phillips labored at the plate last season with a .256 average for the Bisons.

He came into this camp hoping to land the utility infielder's job over Ramon Vazquez. The Indians were impressed with his disciplined demeanor on and off the field, and he put up good numbers -- a .316 average in 38 at-bats with three home runs, including a solo shot in Wednesday's win over the Astros.

"I had a good spring," said Phillips, who missed 10 days with strep throat. "But that doesn't matter. I went out there and gave it my all, but they made their decision."

Manager Eric Wedge wished Phillips the best.

"His best days are definitely ahead of him," Wedge said. "Every career path is different. It's not always an easy path. There are bumps in the road. It didn't work out for him, initially. Some guys have passed him by, but that's not an indication of him so much as it is of the other players."

Upon mention of his wayward career path, Phillips shrugged.

"It wasn't how I planned it," he said.

Though clearly disappointed, he didn't express any hard feelings for the organization.

"I respect them for their decision," he said. "I tried to show the Indians I was ready to play, but they thought otherwise. You've got to take it how it is and move on."

Phillips has no idea where he's moving to. And he seemed to take little solace in the fact that if he's traded, he'll have a big-league opportunity with another club.

"It still hurts," he said. "I wanted to be an Indian. That dream is gone away."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.