"He's done a great job for us," White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome, another former Phillie, said Thursday. "We really feel confident when he goes to the mound."
The 25-year-old righthander is 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA in three starts. He has beaten the Detroit Tigers, a team that has the potential to lead the majors in runs, twice. He was in line for his third win before the Sox' bullpen lost a late three-run lead to Baltimore on Thursday.
In his first 191/3innings of the new season, Floyd has allowed just nine hits. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth Thursday. In the start before that, he took a no-hitter into the eighth.
On the mound, Floyd looks sure of himself. The days when he was as uneasy as a 16-year-old driving on the Schuylkill Expressway for the first time appear behind him.
"I get my sign from the catcher, get my rhythm and tempo and attack the strike zone," Floyd said. "It sounds simple, but you could have told me that two years ago and I'd try, but it wouldn't come out right."
Pitching is coming naturally to Floyd again, as it did in high school, as it didn't with the Phillies. He has stopped over-thinking and stopped fiddling with mechanics. No more paralysis by analysis. Just pitch.
"I'm back to being smooth, natural, effortless," he said. "Once I started messing around too much, I wasn't as natural and things just snowballed. Everything went downhill and I lost confidence and focus. Then you try too hard and you overthrow. It got frustrating.
"The people here knew what I went through [in the Phillies organization]. They knew I was listening to too many people, trying too many new things. We focused on a couple of keys, and it's made a difference. Before, I was diving with my front shoulder, jumping at the hitter. Now I'm staying back and letting my natural ability work."
Floyd made 11 starts for the 2006 Phillies and had a 7.29 ERA. From 2004 to 2006, he pitched in 24 games and was 7-5 with a 6.96 ERA. He was also inconsistent in the minors over that span.
At the winter meetings in 2006, the Phillies traded him and pitching prospect Gio Gonzalez to the White Sox for Freddy Garcia. The Phils thought they were getting a top arm, but Garcia showed up hurt and was a non-factor in 2007. The White Sox have since dealt Gonzalez for centerfielder Nick Swisher, who has been a big early-season contributor. Meanwhile, Floyd has emerged as a pitcher manager Ozzie Guillen can count on.
"The big difference is his confidence," Guillen said. "The stuff has always been there. His biggest growth has been the mental. He knows he can pitch here."
When Floyd struggled in Philadelphia, his toughness was questioned. He scoffs at those criticisms but does acknowledge that early-career struggles toughened him.
"It's not easy to be tough when you're failing," Guillen said. "No human being likes to have his ass kicked.
"I don't care what happened in Philadelphia. I go with what I see, and to me, he's a pretty good major-league pitcher. And with the stuff he has he can even be better.
"If he believes in himself, he has a chance to make a lot of money. If he doesn't believe in himself, he'll be just another in the bunch."
Floyd's early-season success is far from shocking. He's always had an above-average fastball and a knee-buckling breaking ball. Pitchers, however, are no different than any other human. They mature at their own rate. In that vein, Phils assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle, who oversaw the drafting of Floyd, always believed things would eventually click for the pitcher. It was just a matter of when. Realistically, though, after giving Floyd a $4.2 million signing bonus, that question only grew more cumbersome every time he struggled.
"When you come with high expectations and fail one or two times, some people have a tendency to walk away from you," Guillen said. "Here, I just let the kid pitch."
Floyd hails from Baltimore. Being traded from the Phillies to Chicago meant his family could no longer make a two-hour drive to watch him pitch. But that's OK.
"I loved Philadelphia," Floyd's father, Rodney, told the Baltimore Sun. "But I think the expectations for him there were a little too soon. I think it was a good change for him mentally."
The most telling indication of Floyd's maturity might not be his early success. It might be the even-keeled way he's handling it.
"I've had a few good games," he said. "But it's a long season. I still need to get better."
Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983