Clearwater righthander Knigge drawing attention

Tyler Knigge has emerged as a top prospect for the Phillies .
Tyler Knigge has emerged as a top prospect for the Phillies .
Posted: June 17, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Joe Jordan, in preparation for his new job as the Phillies' personnel director, spent countless hours watching video of minor-leaguers this offseason. He also had numerous conversations with his fellow members of the player development department in an effort to get to know as much as he could about the farm system.

Tyler Knigge's name was not one that came up often.

"Coming into the year . . . we talked about him a little bit, but not a great deal," Jordan said last week at Bright House Field. "Then, in spring training, about the second time I saw him throw, I just walked up to him and asked him to tell me about himself. I wanted to know his arsenal and what type of pitcher he thought he was."

When Knigge finished with his pitching biography and expectations, Jordan broke some good news to the 23-year-old righthander who was selected in the 12th round of the 2010 draft out of Lewis-Clark State College in his native Idaho.

"When he got through telling me about himself, I told him, 'You got a chance to be a lot better than that off what I'm watching,' " Jordan said. "We had a pretty good talk. It was an opportunity for me to tell a kid you might be better than you think you are. He had as good a camp as anybody we have. He went right through the competition in spring training and he's carried it on."

A National League scout who recently watched Clearwater play for a week said he was impressed by a number of pitchers on the Threshers staff, but the guy he liked most was Knigge, who is now the team's closer.

That's saying something considering the Clearwater staff includes 2010 first-round pick Jesse Biddle, who is also a huge Knigge fan.

"He's my roommate on the road," Biddle said. "I think the biggest thing he has done is work harder than anybody else out here. He takes it very, very seriously. He's not worried about where he got drafted, his signing bonus, or whether he's a prospect. He's just a pitcher and he just goes out and does it every single time. He's a guy who just goes about his business the right way."

Knigge might not have been considered a top Phillies prospect at the start of this season, but he is now.

After going 4-3 with a 3.32 ERA and four saves at single-A Lakewood last season, he has dominated at a higher level this season, going 3-1 with a 0.79 ERA and five saves in the first half of Clearwater's season. He allowed 22 hits and struck out 29 batters in 34 innings, and opponents hit .186 against him.

Jordan said Knigge could be pitching at double-A Reading soon.

"Well, sure," Jordan said. "He's obviously made the decision easy as far as considering it, and we're looking at it. He was just added to the [Florida State League] all-star team, and any of the guys we have like that who have had success, we have to make sure they are challenged."

Hot Biddle

Biddle went 3-3 with a 2.98 ERA in 12 starts during the first half at Clearwater. He struck out 70 batters and walked 21 batters in 601/3 innings, and opponents hit .233 against him. He lasted just three innings in his last start, however, because of dehydration problems in the searing Florida heat.

"I think I had the flu going into it, too," Biddle said. "When I was pitching, I was just having trouble walking and paying attention. I sat down between innings and was totally out of it. But there are no excuses in the end. I have to go out and pitch and help our team win, and I didn't do that."

Jordan said he'll consider Biddle's age - he is only 20 - when conversations about promoting him to Reading come up, but he did not rule out the possibility.

"I'll be more cautious simply because he is younger," Jordan said. "The success he has had has been wonderful, but this is a marathon."

Mind game

Jordan and roving pitching coordinator Gorman Heimueller decided to play a little mind game with Clearwater's Brody Colvin in an effort to help the struggling righthander get back on track. Colvin was removed from the rotation late last month and pitched five straight games in relief.

"He was still getting the same amount of innings every week for the most part . . . but we were not telling him when he was throwing," Jordan said. "We told him to prepare and be ready and just tried to clear his mind. We told him not to worry about five or six innings. We wanted him to pitch an inning or two and have fun . . . and he did a pretty good job with it."

So far, it seems to be working. Colvin, 21, allowed just two runs in five relief appearances that covered nine innings, then allowed just two hits and a run in six innings in his return to the rotation Tuesday night.

Still sidelined

Centerfielder Tyson Gillies has not played since May 26 after suffering a concussion during a collision with teammate Jiwan James.

"Basically we're just trying to get him through the symptoms," Jordan said. "They did [linger]. The rest of him is ready. In today's world, [concussions] are more serious, and we're all very sensitive to that."

Jordan said there was no timetable for Gillies' return.


 

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