Cloyd loses to another rookie in Phillies debut

Posted: August 30, 2012

Restlessness consumed Tyler Cloyd hours before he stepped on a major-league mound Wednesday for the first time. He drove from Allentown to Citizens Bank Park and arrived at 1:30 p.m. only to wait. He rocked in a leather chair and fiddled with his phone, which was plugged in to withstand the constant congratulatory messages.

"I liked getting here a little early," Cloyd said, "to settle my emotions."

No one disrupts a pitcher on the day of his start, but Cloyd welcomed it. Jimmy Rollins shook his hand. Vance Worley hugged him. Cloyd sat down, leaned back and smiled.

It was Worley's inflamed elbow and Cole Hamels' ill stomach that brought Cloyd to Philadelphia for a 3-2 loss to the New York Mets. Cloyd was decent in defeat.

His pregame agitation subsided in the later innings. Cloyd retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced. The decisive blow came in the third inning when Lucas Duda mashed an 86-m.p.h. cutter just inside the right-field foul pole for a two-run homer.

"He gave us a chance to win the game," Charlie Manuel said. "He kept us right in the game."

A 25-year-old, soft-tossing Nebraskan with gaudy minor-league numbers, Cloyd emerged as a cause célèbre for a fan base craving any sort of drama in the final weeks of a lost season. His six innings of three-run ball Wednesday did not portend greatness, but no one is expecting it.

Of his 102 pitches, the hardest thrown was 89.5 m.p.h. The righthander threw 71 of them for strikes and fanned five Mets. He fed them a steady diet of cutters, a pitch he used for more than half of the night.

His new Phillies teammates were handcuffed by Matt Harvey, also a rookie pitcher and hardly comparable to Cloyd. Harvey, who touches 99 m.p.h. with his fastball, was one of the best pitching prospects in the minors before his promotion.

About the only opponent Harvey could not master was Cloyd, who walked twice on a total of nine pitches. The first walk resulted in a second-inning Phillies run once Rollins lashed a two-out double to right that scored Kevin Frandsen. That was the closest the Phillies came.

Blame did not fall to Cloyd, who was named International League pitcher of the year one day before his big-league debut. Cloyd sported a 15-1 record in 26 minor-league starts with a 2.26 ERA.

"He looked in control," Manuel said. "He's gutty. He doesn't light the radar gun up. But his command was good. He definitely had good poise."

Cloyd was the first Phillies pitcher to make his major-league debut as a starter since Antonio Bastardo in 2009. Although he was replacing Hamels, sidelined by a gastrointestinal illness, Cloyd could assume Worley's spot for the remainder of 2012. Manuel indicated Cloyd will stay in the rotation.

The team does not know when Hamels will next start; it could be as late as Sunday.

Cloyd awoke Wednesday expecting to pitch in Allentown before a Ryne Sandberg phone call made it an unforgettable day. Cloyd told his wife and phoned his father.

"It was the first time I ever heard my dad cry over the phone," Cloyd said.

Unable to secure a last-minute flight, his parents watched from a sports bar in Omaha, Neb. His wife made the drive with him and when the stadium emptied, they took photos on the field.

"I couldn't ask for anything more," Cloyd said.

He had lasted at least six innings in all but one of his 2012 minor-league starts. After three innings Wednesday, that appeared in peril with his pitch count at 66.

He zipped through the next three frames without pizzazz and departed to scattered applause. It was a debut fitting of Cloyd's style and there was nothing wrong with that.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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