Phillies prospect Gillies still has big-league dreams

Posted: June 06, 2014

ALLENTOWN - Tyson Gillies was just 4 years old when his parents noticed something different about him. They thought he was not focusing, and ignoring them when they spoke to him. He was tested, and it was learned that he has 50 percent hearing in one ear, and just 30 percent in the other.

"I was reading lips when I was 2 and 3 and speaking perfectly, so nobody knew," Gillies said. "There was something different. I found myself getting lost in different situations. Finally, when they brought me in for my third or fourth hearing test, they closed the blinds and I couldn't read lips anymore."

His hearing impairment, while serious, has not held him back from pursuing his dream of playing professional baseball. He is currently is centerfielder with the Phillies' Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, hoping for a shot in the major leagues.

He says his impairment keeps him on his toes.

"You just take the best out of anything and flip things to find the positive," Gillies said. "There is different situations in the game that I cannot hear, but that's why I have to be ready for everything before it happens so I can react to it."

Gillies was in the three-prospect package the Phillies acquired when they traded Cliff Lee to Seattle after the 2009 season. The Phillies also received pitching prospects Phillippe Aumont, who has struggled mightily, and JC Ramirez, who is in the Cleveland organization.

Gillies, 25, might be the last hope that the Phillies salvage anything from the deal.

Gillies has been plagued by injuries, and has not been the same offensive player in the Phillies' farm system as he was with Seattle's. He hit a combined .321 while playing in the Mariners' system. This year, he is hitting just .217 in 37 games with the IronPigs.

"I'm just trying to get comfortable," Gillies said. "I went through the whole swing-jam scenario last year, and I didn't find any comfort in it. I am trying to get back to how I was before I came over here. Getting comfortable brings confidence. I feel like I have been close a couple times, but I'm just waiting for something to click."

Said Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage: "We are trying to get him to be who he is, and trying to get him to utilize the bunt and hitting the ball the other way, working on that on-base percentage and taking more pitches, understanding that a walk is as good as a hit."

The jump from level to level in the minor leagues can be an adjustment for any player. Gillies has not hit well in Triple A, but showed in Double A Reading that he has tools. He hit .267 with seven home runs in just 51 games with the Fightin' Phils last season. But there has been little success at the next level.

"Every level is different," Brundage said. "He had success at Double A. He swung the bat and hit almost .300 at AA. It hasn't turned over here to Triple A. At the same time, there are a lot of guys that struggle when they get to Triple A. It is a different level. You have smarter, more veteran, older guys who are a little wiser between the ears. From that standpoint, he just has to understand to stay within himself and not do too much."

On defense, Gillies is lightning fast in centerfield, looking like an everyday major league outfielder. "He is outstanding in centerfield," Brundage said. "He has played very well. He is very passionate about his defense. His defense is ahead of his offense. He is an above-average major league centerfielder. He throws well."

Now, if only he can get his swing right.

"I want to be that exciting guy," Gillies said. "I am just a guy that likes to hustle. It is always who I've been. I've always had to do things the hard way. I want to be that everyday hustle guy that everyone notices. You may not have all the talent in the world, but I know there is one thing I can do and it is bringing that hard work in between the lines everyday."

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