Zach Warren grew up a loyal Philadelphia Phillies fan.
Now the left-handed pitcher will get to play with the team he watched and cheered for during his childhood. The 2014 St. Augustine Prep graduate was among the 15 minor leaguers the Phillies announced Monday have been invited to attend major league spring training as nonroster invitees in Clearwater, Florida, next month.
“It feels great," said Warren, 23, of Vineland. "It’s just the next step in the journey to make it to the big leagues. It’s nice to see progress and all the hard work not go in vain. I just need to stay motivated.”
The Phillies called the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder Thursday to deliver the good news. Warren, who said he "wasn't really expecting it," immediately called his father, Geoff, to share the good news.
"He was really excited," Warren said. "I'm really excited. It really is a huge honor."
Phillies pitchers and catchers will report to spring training Feb. 11. Their first official workouts will be Feb. 12.
The Phillies selected Warren in the 14th round (413th overall) of the 2017 MLB draft. He had been picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 23rd round of the 2014 draft but decided to attend the University of Tennessee instead of signing.
Warren made 40 relief appearances for single-A Clearwater in 2019, posting a 3.30 ERA with seven saves while striking out 80 in 60 innings. He held opponents to a .199 batting average.
In 95 minor league appearances, all in relief, Warren has a 2.71 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. He has averaged 13.23 strikeouts per nine innings (220 SO, 149 2/3 IP). He began his professional career with the Williamsport Crosscurtters in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2017 and played for the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Phillies’ low single-A affiliate, in the South Atlantic League in 2018.
"It's just really great playing for my local team," Warren said. "I've watched guys like (Cole) Hamels and (Roy) Halladay since I was a young kid. It's not too often you get drafted by your hometown team. I don't take this for granted, and I am blessed to have this opportunity."
Warren will join another former Cape-Atlantic League star, Matt Szczur, at Phillies spring training. Szczur, 30, a 2007 Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate, is an outfielder who has 363 games of major league experience. He spent 2019 in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and received an invitation to the Phillies' major league spring training camp last month when he signed a minor league contract with them.
"I'm just excited to be around all of the big leaguers and pick their brain about what it takes to make it in the big league, and use that to grow," Warren said.
Warren's mindset is to arrive in Clearwater, create some relationships with the staff and team members and "show them my work ethic and what kind of guy I am."
Warren said he won't know where the organization will place him or for which affiliate he will play for this year. The Phillies typically make those decisions two or three days before spring training ends.
But Warren isn't concerned about that.
"I'm just hoping for the best when I get there (to training camp)," he said. "I am going to put the work in and hopefully continue to move through the system. I'm just going to work hard and leave that decision to them."
Here's a look at the other players whose spring training invitations were announced Monday:
• Alec Bohm, INF – The 23-year-old won the 2019 Paul Owens Award as the best player in the Phillies minor league system after slashing .305/.378/.518 with 30 doubles, 21 home runs and 80 RBI for single-A Lakewood, single-A Clearwater and double-A Reading. He was selected by the Phillies in the first round (No. 3 overall) of the June 2018 draft.
• Connor Brogdon, RHP – Brogdon, who turns 25 later this month, made 51 relief appearances last year, posting a 2.61 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He held opponents to a .173 batting average and averaged 12.55 strikeouts per nine innings (106 SO, 76.0 IP) for single-A Clearwater, double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley. He was selected by the Phillies in the 10th round of the June 2017 draft.
• Kyle Dohy, LHP – The California native averaged 13.97 strikeouts per nine innings (105 SO, 67.2 IP) while pitching for double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2019. Dohy, 23, recorded multiple strikeouts in 30 of his 47 relief appearances. The lefty was selected by the Phillies in the 16th round of the June 2017 draft.
• Tyler Gilbert, LHP – Originally selected in the sixth round of the June 2015 draft out of the University of Southern California, Gilbert made 36 appearances for triple-A Lehigh Valley last season and posted a 2.83 ERA over 47.2 innings with 46 strikeouts to 14 walks.
• Darick Hall, 1B – Hall, 24, spent the entire 2019 season with double-A Reading, where he was named an Eastern League midseason and postseason All-Star. Selected by the Phillies in the 14th round of the June 2016 draft, the left-handed-hitting Hall has clubbed 84 home runs and posted an .825 OPS over 438 career minor league games.
• Spencer Howard, RHP – Howard, 23, was named the club’s No. 1 prospect by Baseball America following his 2019 season in which he made 15 starts overall, posting a 2.03 ERA and 0.83 WHIP while averaging 11.92 strikeouts per nine innings. Howard was selected by the Phillies in the second round of the June 2017 draft.
• Damon Jones, LHP – The 25-year-old led all Phillies minor league pitchers in strikeouts last season. A Florida State League midseason All-Star, he averaged 11.97 strikeouts per nine innings and posted a 2.91 ERA in 23 starts for single-A Clearwater, double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley. The 6-foot-5 lefty was selected by the Phillies in the 18th round of the June 2017 draft.
• Henri Lartigue, C – A seventh-round selection in the June 2016 draft out of the University of Mississippi, Lartigue, 24, appeared in 77 games for double-A Reading last season.
• Austin Listi, 1B/OF – The 26-year-old split last season between double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley and slashed .252/.344/.434 between the two levels.
• Nick Maton, SS – Selected by Baseball America as the Phillies’ No. 10 prospect heading into 2020, the left-handed hitting Maton slashed .266/.349/.376 in 114 combined games between single-A Clearwater and double-A Reading last year. He was selected by the Phillies in the seventh round of the June 2017 draft out of Lincoln Land Community College (Ill.).
• Mickey Moniak, OF – Moniak batted .252 with 28 doubles, 13 triples, 11 home runs, 67 RBI, 15 stolen bases and 63 runs scored as a 21-year-old with double-A Reading in 2019. Moniak was the Phillies’ first overall selection in the June 2016 draft.
• Ramon Rosso, RHP – The 23-year-old Rosso split 2019 between double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley, combining to go 5-6 with a 4.46 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 123.0 innings over 24 starts. He posted a 3.15 ERA in 10 starts with Reading before his promotion in June. Rosso was signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent in February 2017.
• Addison Russ, RHP – Russ, 25, appeared in an Eastern League-best 55 games in 2019, posting a 2.54 ERA with 22 saves, most among Phillies minor leaguers. Russ was selected by the Phillies in the 19th round of the June 2017 draft.
• Luke Williams, INF/OF – Williams, 23, spent last season with double-A Reading and hit .238 with 30 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs in 125 games. A third-round selection in the June 2015 draft.