CLEARWATER, Fla. – Noah Song threw and performed agility drills on a back outfield wearing Philadelphia Phillies shorts and T-shirt, a far different different uniform for the 25-year old.
Song had been a flight officer training on a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft before transferring from active duty to reserves.
“I think really the most important thing is just recognizing the fact that I really enjoy both,” Song said Thursday while sitting on top of a picnic table just beyond the left-field fence at Phillies spring training camp. "If there's nothing else to do other than the military, this is where I want to be. I'm feel really blessed and really lucky that I haven't had to do anything that I don't want to do yet.”
Song impressed in his only pro season, making seven starts for Boston’s Class A Lowell affiliate in 2019, striking out 19 in 17 innings with a 1.06 ERA. With a fastball in the upper 90s mph, he went 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings during his senior year at Navy.
Song, who is from California, was taken by the Phillies from Boston in the winter meeting draft for unprotected minor league players in December with hopes he would play after military service.
“We feel it’s worth the gamble," Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "We felt it was worth the upside risk. Will be able to do it? We’ll see.”
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander said his aspiration to reach the major leagues looked further and further from reality during the past few years. Then, the transfer request made around nine months earlier was approved.
“I don’t think a lot of people could have expected it,” Song said. “But I’m here now. I don’t really necessarily know what my future or ceiling might be. Just trying to figure out what it is, what the new one is.”
Song last week had his bullpen session since 2019 last week. He played catch when he could on open spaces at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
“It felt rough," Song said. "Felt like I kind of trying to walk again. I was kind of learning things.”
Song was selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2019 amateur draft when Dombrowski headed Boston's baseball operations. Without the military committment, Dombrowski thinks Song might have been a first-round pick.
Should he make the 26-man active roster, Song would work out of the bullpen. Dombrowski would not be surprised if Song appeared in spring training games.
Philadelphia must keep Song on the big league roster all season. To remove him from the rosyer, the Phillies would have to offer him back to the Red Sox.
“However, there's a combination of rules here, too, because there's not only Rule 5 pick, there's the military list rule that gets involved," Dombrowski said. “Some of these rules were written before I was born. Nobody wants to see this kid get hurt."
Dombrowski said the rules were the same when Chicago Cubs left-hander Ken Holtzman received a pass from his military duty in 1967, allowing him to make four starts that August and September— all wins.
Song said his remaining military obligations are 12 years in the reserves, and one weekend and two-week stint a year. The lieutenant junior grade originally had been scheduled to make his first oerseas deployment last month to Japan.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports