Inside the Phillies: Cloyd patiently waiting for a chance

Tyler Cloyd is 14-1 with a 2.07 earned run average in 23 startsat Reading and Lehigh Valley. As for a promotion, he says, "whenever I get that call . . ." MIKE JANES / Four Seam Images
Tyler Cloyd is 14-1 with a 2.07 earned run average in 23 startsat Reading and Lehigh Valley. As for a promotion, he says, "whenever I get that call . . ." MIKE JANES / Four Seam Images
Posted: August 13, 2012

ALLENTOWN - Another big-league opportunity came and went for Tyler Cloyd on Wednesday.

It was his day to pitch, and he did so right on schedule - for the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

The fact that it wasn't his best start of the season is beside the point. The fact that he did not make his 23d start of the season for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park is the point.

That assignment went instead to Kyle Kendrick, and that did not go well either. That, too, is beside the point.

Cloyd, 25, has been the best pitcher in the Phillies' minor-league system this season. That does not mean he is the best pitcher in the system, which seems to be the cause of the Phillies' dilemma.

On one hand, they cannot find any reason to do anything other than compliment his work. On the other hand, their 18th-round pick from the 2008 draft does not overwhelm anybody with the way the baseball is released from his right arm.

"He's your classic overachiever right now," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's done a nice job being able to handle the opportunity he got in [double-A] Reading and now he has clearly done just as well at Lehigh Valley. He's done it fairly consistently."

In 23 starts - four at Reading and 19 at Lehigh Valley - Cloyd is 14-1 with a 2.07 earned run average. He has allowed just 112 hits and walked 34 batters in 148 innings. Opponents have hit .213 against him, including a .208 clip in his 19 starts at Lehigh Valley.

Those numbers scream "Give me a chance," and the Phillies' large deficits in the divisional and wild-card races shout out "now."

Cloyd, however, is not even raising his voice, even though plenty of outside voices have tried to get into his head.

"I'm focused in on here," he said Thursday at Coca-Cola Park. "That's how I have been all year. I'm not going to get too much thinking into that. I feel like if I get thinking into that and not on the job I have to do down here that things are going to go wrong down here. So I keep my mind here, and whenever I get that call, whether it's this year or not, that's when I'll start thinking about that."

He admits those words are easier to say than live, especially when friends, family, and media members are constantly asking him when he thinks his chance is going to come.

"Obviously if I knew the answer, it would be a lot easier," Cloyd said. "I do what I do down here and I keep working to continue to do what I'm doing down here to obviously keep it in their mind to give me a shot up there."

If it makes Cloyd feel any better, his name has come across the Phillies' radar screen.

"He has been discussed quite a bit, probably since we needed a starter earlier this summer," assistant general manager Benny Looper said.

So what does Cloyd have to do to get that chance?

"Well, he couldn't have a better year than he's had here," Looper said. "He doesn't knock you out with anything. He doesn't light up the radar gun. He commands his pitches exceptionally well. His cutter is a big pitch for him that he can command. He's proven himself at this level."

Looper knew he had not answered the question.

"He just has to keep doing what he's doing and when the opportunity comes, hopefully he'll take advantage of it," the assistant GM said.

The fact that Cloyd does not light up radar guns - his fastball tops out at 90 m.p.h. and usually is somewhere below that number - is no doubt part of the reason he is still waiting for his big-league chance.

We have seen pitchers succeed at the minor-league level but never come close to duplicating that success in the big leagues. You won't find a scouting report anywhere that says Cloyd can't miss at the next level, although he does get a glowing review from his own manager.

"He has been very, very steady," Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I think there is something to being on a roll that he has been on here because he doesn't go out and pitch the same every time out there. He adjusts to the teams that have seen him the second time around. He has adjusted to lineups throughout a game. He takes it pitch by pitch and he reacts to what a hitter does on a previous pitch and then makes the adjustment."

In other words, he pitches with his brains as much as his arm and throws the ball where the catcher sets up the target.

"I played behind a pitcher like that," Sandberg said. "Greg Maddux was the master of command. That's what Tyler has going for him. He has the ability to throw strikes, but also the ability to hit the mitt with a particular pitch. The result is often times the hitters miss the sweet spot in the bat. It results in weak balls hit and ground balls when he needs them."

Maddux had better stuff than he was given credit for and certainly better stuff than Cloyd. At this point, however, the Phillies know what they have in Kendrick. He's a big-league pitcher who can help a team and has helped the Phillies a lot in the past. Maybe Cloyd can be something more than that.

The only way to find out is by giving him a chance.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or on Twitter @brookob

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