Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ken Giles savors first taste of majors

From the moment Ken Giles fired a 100 m.p.h. fastball in April at double-A Reading, the righthanded pitcher developed a cult following.

Ken Giles savors first taste of majors

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Phillies pitching prospect Kenny Giles. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images)
Phillies pitching prospect Kenny Giles. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images)

CINCINNATI — From the moment Ken Giles fired a 100 m.p.h. fastball in April at double-A Reading, the righthanded pitcher developed a cult following. Baseball tends to romanticize speed, and no Phillies arm in the last decade threw as hard as Giles does.

Giles, a soft-spoken 23-year-old from New Mexico, was quite aware of how fans placed him on a pedestal.

"It trickled down pretty fast," Giles said. "The first outing I had down there, it trickled down pretty fast. I've already heard it."

Giles, of course, is no savior. The Phillies, now without injured Mike Adams, lack a proven righthanded option as a bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon. Justin De Fratus, who has tossed nine scoreless innings since his recall, will likely have the first crack at a setup role. Giles, though, could assume important situations should he command his powerful arsenal. The last Phillies pitcher to regularly hit 100 m.p.h. was Billy Wagner in 2004-05.

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The Phillies wanted Giles to see more experienced hitters at triple A before a promotion to the majors. His strikeouts dipped and walks increased in 11 games at Lehigh Valley, which served as a lesson.

"Just trying to be more selective with my pitches," Giles said. "They're a lot smarter than they were at double A, so I just had to kind of pitch a little bit better, keep them off my fastball, be a little more selective."

He struck out nine and walked eight with a 2.63 ERA at triple A. Giles said his mind sometimes wandered; he was so close to the majors. Is he prepared?

"I'm ready to go," Giles said. "No one is going to say no, right? I'm ready to go whenever they want me."

Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage pulled Giles into a meeting Saturday. They talked about his progress and adjustments. Then, Brundage told his pitcher, "We're getting you a flight to Cincinnati."

"Did I get traded?" Giles asked. The promotion surprised him.

"I'm not perfect," Giles said. "I'm not a complete project yet, but I'm only going to get better with experience."


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