Greg Legg remembers the first few times he saw Jeff Singer pitch, and that's why he is so impressed with what he sees from the South Jersey native.
"He is a hell of a story," the manager of the Phillies' double-A Reading affiliate said. "Early on when I had him, I said, 'God, I've never seen this guy throw a strike.' I think the first time I saw him, I had to go get him after he threw 12 straight balls. That was two years ago, and now you have a guy whose confidence just keeps growing."
Singer, a graduate of Holy Cross High School and Rutgers-Camden, joined the Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 2016 after pitching for the now-defunct Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League the year before. He climbed quickly from rookie ball with Williamsport to low-A Lakewood, and by August, he was with Legg's high-A Clearwater squad. In his first two outings with the Threshers, he gave up three hits without recording an out. In his third outing, he recorded two outs, but also allowed four runs on four walks and a hit.
Things could get only better, and in fact, they have gotten much better. These days, Legg has high praise for Singer, a 24-year-old lefty.
"He has a fastball that is hard to pick up," Legg said. "They pick it up late because he has so much deception. He's not scared of anything. I've been real impressed. Me and [pitching coach Steve Schrenk] both said the other day that he's going to pitch in the big leagues. It's just a matter of when. I see it happening."
A scout at one of Reading's recent games agreed that Singer has a chance, provided he keeps throwing strikes.
Singer's 2018 season actually got off to a difficult start. After finishing last year at Reading, he was sent back to Clearwater for the start of this season. Seven appearances in, he had a 7.56 ERA and had allowed 14 hits, including two home runs, in 8 1/3 innings.
"After being promoted last year, you never want to be sent down, and it was a humbling experience to be back in Clearwater," Singer said. "I learned a lot and I learned what routine I needed to do to get back to Reading, and I think that has helped me so far."
Since that disastrous start, Singer has a 0.71 ERA in 17 combined games at Clearwater and Reading. He has allowed just 10 hits, struck out 27 and walked 10 in 25 1/3 innings. Opponents have hit just .120 against him in that span.
"Mentally and physically, it all clicked at one point and I just felt a lot better," Singer said.