Phillies' Gillies says he's righted himself after cocaine bust, injury

Tyson Gillies had injury, legal problems in 2010.
Tyson Gillies had injury, legal problems in 2010.
Posted: February 26, 2011

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Tyson Gillies did not discuss specifics. Again and again, though, he repeated this: He is a good kid who put himself in a bad situation, and, right now, his entire focus is on producing a healthy, successful 2011 season.

"Last year was a very troubling year for me," said Gillies, whose first year in the Phillies organization included an arrest for cocaine possession and a balky left hamstring that limited him to 28 games. "It was very difficult to deal with. I'm here now and ready to put everything behind me from last season, both professionally and personally. I'm ready to move forward and start playing the game of baseball."

Although the one count of felony cocaine possession that Gillies faced after his arrest in late August was eventually dropped, the incident left both the player and the organization red in the face. According to the arrest report, Gillies was spotted by a police officer standing on the side of U.S. 19 in Clearwater at 3:20 a.m. on the morning of June 11. He was waving his shirt above his head and, according to the report, was visibly intoxicated. The officer ended up driving Gillies, who was rehabbing his hamstring injury, back to his hotel. But when Gillies exited the vehicle, the police officer spotted a bag of white powder lying on the back seat, the report said. When test results on the substance came back in August positive for cocaine, Gillies was arrested.

The incident was a stunner for everybody in the Phillies organization, all of whom knew Gillies as an affable hard worker who sprinted through drills at full speed.

"It was a very devastating thing for both me and my family and friends," Gillies said. "Everybody couldn't believe everything. The most upsetting thing for me is that people even had a chance to question my character, which I value so much."

Gillies said he made the club aware of it immediately after it happened, so his arrest a month later did not come as a surprise.

The club immediately placed the outfielder in its Employee Assistance Program, run by former major leaguer Dickie Noles.

"I was completely honest about it," Gillies said. "I explained the situation. I couldn't thank enough the support that the Phillies organization and Dickie Noles and EAP have given to me. They believed in me and they took my word for it and having that relationship with an organization, it was so big. It was great. Obviously, everything worked out as it should have, but to have that kind of support and that feeling, it's just amazing."

Both Gillies and Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar, who accompanied the player during the press briefing, declined to discuss specifics about the incident or Gillies' participation in the assistance program.

"The only thing I can tell you guys is what's done is done," Gillies said. "The only thing I can take out of it now is it was a positive learning experience for me. I need to keep myself out of harmful situations and watching my surroundings from now on."

LaMar said the organization supported him 100 percent.

"In what happened off the field, we didn't waver, because, like any player, you would hope the Philadelphia Phillies - and we have and always will - you are innocent until you are proven guilty," LaMar said. "And the minute Tyson shot straight with us from the very start, Dickie and everybody else in the organization got involved, and Tyson has done everything this organization could possibly ask of him. Most of it is confidential, anything in the EAP program for any of us has to stay confidential, but I will tell you that he's followed the letter of the law and he's done everything we can possibly ask of him."

LaMar also gave him a vote of confidence on the field. When the Phillies acquired the then-21-year-old outfielder from the Mariners along with pitchers Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez for Cliff Lee, they envisioned him as a potential Shane Victornio-type centerfielder. In 2009, he hit .341 with a .430 on-base percentage and 44 stolen bases at High A High Desert. But he struggled during his first month at Double A Reading, and spent the rest of the season battling the hamstring strain that did not heal until the offseason. He finished the year hitting .238 with a .286 OBP and two steals in 26 games at Reading.

"He's just a young man who needs to go out, like he said, and put it behind him," LaMar said. "You've got to go from a prospect to a player. And, right now, that is the stage he is at. He's got to go from a major league prospect to a major league player. He knows that better than myself or anybody else and that's what he plans on doing."

Gillies, who spent part of his offseason serving as an extra in commercials for Coca-Cola and Ford, said his hamstring is finally healthy. LaMar said the outfielder is slated to start the year at Double A.

"Hamstrings are great," Gillies said. "They feel great. It's taken awhile for them to feel like this. A lot of stretching, a lot of rehab, but I finally feel confident that I'm ready to go fast again." *

For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/HighCheese.

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