The Philadelphia Phillies challenging Wild Card hopes remained alive when they beat the New York Mets 3-1 on September 17.
Many issues have forced younger players and other men who don't have a lot of major league experience, to play significant roles on this years' team. One of the young players that the Phillies have been relying on lately is Tyler Cloyd, who had a combined 15-1 record for the Double-A Reading Phillies and Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs this year.
The Phillies' rookie was scheduled to pitch on September 18 against the Mets. Because of a weather postponement, his start has been shifted to the makeup game that will be played on September 19.
Taking over for the vanimal
I've always found it challenging to determine if a pitcher is going to be able to make it in the major leagues. Sure, someone like Cole Hamels was a standout when he first arrived on the scene in 2006. But, that great left-hander represents an exception.
Vance Worley became a full-time member of the starting rotation last season. That right-hander earned 11 wins, posted a 3.01 ERA, a 1.230 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and finished third in the National League's Rookie of the Year Award balloting. Because of the manner in which he attacked the strike zone, it was reasonable to think that might have a good sophomore season if all went smoothly. It didn't.
Arm issues hurt Worley's performance earlier this year and an eventual season-ending elbow problem stopped his 2012 activity (6-9, 4.20 ERA, 1.511 WHIP) on August 29. The 'Vanimal' was officially put on the disabled list that day. However, that transaction also allowed this season's Paul Owens' award-winning minor league pitcher (Cloyd) to be called up.
This 25-year-old right-hander was originally selected by the Phillies in the eighteenth round of the 2008 amateur draft.
Cloyd had a combined 19-13 record, with an approximate WHIP average of 1.330 during his first two seasons (2008, 2009) in Single-A. In 2010 and 2011 he spent time in both Single-A and Double A, went a combined 14-8 and had an approximate WHIP average of 1.200. Because his fastball was in the mid- to high-80s, he was rightly rated as a marginal prospect.
I don't discount what this Nebraska native has accomplished since he first became a professional, or that his strong effort this season reflects the development of his skills. After seeing him pitch in the minor leagues, I thought that he might be able to make it to the big leagues some day. I also knew that if he did, that he would need time to adjust. Because his fastball can't be a dominant part of his repertoire, he must pitch to contact.
Cloyd has done a decent job through four major league starts (1-1) and has a fair 1.350 WHIP. Included in that calculation are 24 hits and an impressive three walks in 20 innings. He has also struck out 20 batters, hit two men and has allowed four home runs.
Today and tomorrow
I'm impressed with what Cloyd was able to accomplish in the minor leagues this season and by his initial efforts during a pressured-pennant race. The experience that he's gaining will allow him to help this team next season, or enable the Phillies to potentially include him in a package that helps to bolster their 2013 team.
As we all know, it will be very difficult for Philadelphia to pass the Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals in order to earn the National Leagues' second Wild Card spot. Despite where the next few weeks may lead, the Phillies' supporting cast offers hope that next season's show will be better.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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