Phillies prospect Tyler Knigge is in control of his destination

Reliever Tyler Knigge, shown in spring training, was called up to Double A Reading after a great first half at Clearwater. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Reliever Tyler Knigge, shown in spring training, was called up to Double A Reading after a great first half at Clearwater. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: July 17, 2012

READING — For the most part, 23-year-old pitching prospects are expected to have a certain amount of success in Class A. But there is success, and then there is what Tyler Knigge did in just more than 3 months this season as a Clearwater Thresher.

Knigge (pronounced Kuh-nigg-ee), a righthanded reliever, has been untouchable in 2012. In 34 appearances for Clearwater, he was 4-1 with a 0.60 ERA, nine saves and 45 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings and was named to the Florida State League All-Star team.

While ERA can sometimes be misleading, Knigge's secondary statistics were even more impressive. Opposing batters hit a paltry .168 against him, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was better than 4-to-1, resulting in a WHIP of 0.83.

Those numbers helped the 12th-round pick in 2008 out of tiny Lewis & Clark State College in Idaho get called up to Double A Reading on Thursday.

Knigge is listed at 6-4 and 215 pounds. His best weapon is a commanding mid-90s fastball that he supplements with an improving slider and a show-me changeup. He credits much of his ascent to an enhanced workout regimen.

"I think is it's been my dedication to my conditioning," Knigge said. "That and my strength have increased tenfold. I had a personal trainer this offseason that really helped me to reach my goals."

Knigge was born, raised and went to college in Idaho, where he spent the most recent offseason. His winter routine consisted of a daily 4:30 a.m. wakeup followed by a 2-hour workout, a full day's work as a participant advisor for Goodwill and finally, throwing sessions at the end of the day. Thus is the life of a midlevel minor league prospect.

But his laborious preparation produced results on the mound and has raised eyebrows in the Phillies organization. He was not among the pitchers whom the Phillies staff talked a lot about entering the season, but he looked strong in spring training and has carried that through thus far. If he continues to hone his slider — he switched from a curve a season ago — he could have a future at Citizens Bank Park.

"That ultimately needs to be my biggest improvement — being able to throw a slider whenever I want to," Knigge said. "What is going to make my fastball better is having that good breaking pitch. It is going to be kind of the base-builder of my future career at this point."

The hardworking Knigge is modest and collected. He even surprised himself with his tranquility when he took the mound in Reading for the first time on Thursday night. All of that, Knigge says, can be traced directly back to his father.

"He is always there to make sure I don't get too high or too low and stay on a nice, even plateau," Knigge said. "When things are going good, be modest about it. When things are going bad, work harder to get back up to it."

So far this year, everything has gone perfectly. But prospects, especially relievers, tend to be fickle and there is no better example than the Phillies.

A year ago, the farm system was considered stocked with near-ready relievers. With the big club's bullpen now in shambles, those highly touted arms have been of little help, whether through injury or ineffectiveness. That is why reliability is the name of the game in the bullpen.

"I wasn't consistent [last year]," Knigge said of his 2011 season at Lakewood where he had a 3.32 ERA. "I had a good season, and finished really well, but the consistency is what really makes a rising prospect. Those are the people that make it to the big leagues."

He was a rock this year in Clearwater, allowing only an unthinkable three earned runs. It's been so far, so good for Knigge after two appearances at Reading. He pitched a scoreless frame on Thursday night and earned his first Double A save on Friday in a 7-6 win.

All he has to do is keep it up.

"They tell me don't change a thing," he said of the coaching staff in Reading. "They said use my fastball, keep guys off balance and don't let anyone feel comfortable. And to attack guys just like I was doing in Clearwater."

Gillies returns

Tyson Gillies went 2-for-3 Sunday in a loss to Bowie in his first action for Reading since May 26 when he suffered a concussion after colliding with teammate Jiwan James in the outfield.

Gillies made two rehab appearances early last week with Lakewood and was activated off the disabled list on Thursday. He was then hampered by hamstring soreness and missed three straight games before starting Sunday.

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