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Gillies Focused on Bounce Back Year

Ask a child about his Christmas wish list and the tyke might not be quite as excited as Tyson Gillies is when he talks about being on a baseball field on a daily basis. The Phillies' young outfield prospect has spent a great amount of time away from the diamond, as he has suffered repeated injuries over the past two seasons. However, at long last recently, Gillies has been on the field, training at the Phillies' spring training facilities in Clearwater, FL.

"I took a week to ten days off for Thanksgiving and when I came back I started hitting straight away. (I've) been taking fly balls in the outfield and I'll be starting to run again here soon. And basically, I've just been lifting weights, hitting and fielding a little bit. I love being on the field!"

The Canadian born Gillies was acquired by Philadelphia as part of the December 2009 Cliff Lee trade with Seattle, along with pitchers J.C. Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont.

Fresh off a stellar campaign with Class A Advanced High Desert in 2009, where he posted a .341 batting average with 9 homeruns, 42 RBI and 44 stolen bases, Gillies joined the Philadelphia organization and seemed fragile, as recurring hamstring issues and a nagging foot injury limited him to just 29 games played with full season clubs over the next two seasons.

The 23-year-old grew healthy as the 2011 regular season came to a close, but the organization didn't wish to rush Gillies back to action too soon, as that was part of the reason his hamstrings acted up multiple times, so he continued to rest and rehab.

In an effort to make up for some missed time, Gillies was assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League this year, where he shared outfield duties with top prospects Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Unfortunately for Gillies, he had a rough go of it during AFL play and batted just .178 with 2 doubles, a HR and 7 RBI in 27 games in the autumn developmental league. The speedster also stole 4 bases without being caught, as he continues to achieve better health in the lower half of his body.

While striving to be pain free and capable of displaying some endurance, Gillies' plans include continuing to work out throughout the entire off-season, with trips home from Clearwater planned strictly for holidays.

"The off-season's been good. I've been going into Brighthouse (Field) and working out every morning. I've been doing things to strengthen my hamstrings and taking care of my foot, to make sure everything gets strong and that I have no setbacks," Gillies stated.

"I'll be spending the whole off-season down here, all the way through. Having missed the past two years, I've been missing baseball a little too much, so I'm likely to take the bat anyway I can."

While there has certainly been some discouragement, Gillies does not fret over the challenges involved with overcoming a string of serious injuries. At the age of 4, he was diagnosed with a significant hearing impairment that left him with 30 percent hearing in one ear and 50 percent in the other and he has been able to overcome the disability throughout his entire life. His patience, learned from those experiences, has helped calm Gillies during frustrating times. He's also able to build confidence, thanks to some votes of confidence from his organization.

The Phillies surprised many people this off-season by adding Gillies to their 40-man roster. The move protected the youngster from being selected by another team in this month's Rule 5 draft, showing that the Phillies continue to be high on Gillies' future. Team general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been clear in the past, stating that he has not soured on Gillies, despite the health problems. Amaro has expressed great confidence in the projected ceiling for Gillies on multiple occasions, admitting that his overall grade might deserve an "incomplete" based on the time Gillies has missed with his varying ailments. That considered, the addition to the 40-man roster is evidence that the organization values the British Columbia native who was once ranked among the top Mariners prospects by varying outlets.

Regarding any high expectations that baseball heads had for for Gillies, and whether that opinion has changed, isn't something that weighs on the mind of the 6-foot-2-inch 190-pounder. If his body permits, Gillies is confident that people will finally see what he can do.

"I know what I am capable of," Gillies said. "I can't wait to play every day and really contribute (for the Phillies organization). I won't be happy until I can be on an active roster and get out there and just play. That is the biggest thing for me right now and I want to get back to where I was."

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Image- Joe Wombough

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