By Justin Adkins:
Tyson Gillies was already under great scrutiny simply due to his status as one of the players the Phillies got back from Seattle in the ill-conceived Cliff Lee Trade Debacle of ’09.
As a prospect, he faced a difficult, challenging road to the majors. Being linked to the hot button Lee issue only made things more tough.
He didn’t help himself then when he got picked up walking shirtless and drunk at 3am on a Clearwater highway last June. It got even worse when he was later arrested for cocaine possession after his stash fell out of his pocket in the very squad car he was taken to the hotel in after his night of drinking and shirt waving.
Luckily for Gillies, the felony possession charge was later dropped, but the damage to his repuation was already done.
“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 was immediately placed in the Phillies’ Employee Assistance Program, and crack support guru Dickie Noles was dispatched to help the young player through this difficult situation.
“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.”
Despite his troubles, Gillies has the backing of the organization, as echoed by assistant general manager Chuck LaMar.
“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 views Gillies as a Shane Victorino-type centerfielder, and the assistant GM wants to see Gillies live up to that comparison.
“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.”
As he starts to get ready for the 2011 season, Gillies is all about looking forward.
“Last year was a very troubling year for me,” said Gillies. “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.”
In addition to his off field troubles, Gillies struggled last season with bothersome hamstrings, though it sounds like he is now fully healed.
“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.”
Hopefully Gillies can make Ruben Amaro Jr. look like an ever bigger genius and fulfill the potential the Phillies saw when they acquired him, since now the Phils have Gillies and Cliff Lee as well.
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