Giles' trip back to minor league camp could be brief

Posted: March 16, 2014

BRADENTON, Fla. - Ken Giles wasn't on the bus headed for Pirate City yesterday morning.

Instead, his locker in the home clubhouse at Bright House Field had been cleared of any personal possessions. When his spring training resumes, Giles will be in the cramped, less attractive confines of the minor league clubhouse at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater.

Giles, the relief pitching prospect with the 100-mph arm, was among the half-dozen Phillies players who saw their time in major league camp come to an end yesterday. But he might not be gone for too long. Although Giles, 23, has yet to pitch a game above Class A, manager Ryne Sandberg said the hard-throwing righthander isn't that far away from being able to help his major league bullpen.

"No, not with his velocity, not with his breaking pitch," Sandberg said. "I don't think he's far away at all."

Giles' triple-digit-reaching fastball is complemented by a slider. His two-pitch repertoire is the same as former Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who worked as a guest instructor in camp earlier this month.

Giles, who profiles as a future big-league closer and even resembles Lidge physically, picked the brain of the recently retired reliever.

"How I could get my slider for strikes more often, other pointers here and there," Giles said. "He just told me to keep doing what I'm doing: throw strikes and don't try to do too much."

Giles was limited to 24 games last season while dealing with oblique injuries. He struck out 34 and walked 19 in 25 2/3 innings at Class A Clearwater.

He also hit 103 mph on the radar gun and impressed onlookers in Clearwater during his first big-league camp this spring.

"I thought his demeanor was good, I thought he was under control," pitching coach Bob McClure said. "Of course, his stuff is good. He might need a little more seasoning, but I expect to see him at some point."

Giles said the organization's pitching coaches tinkered with his mechanics last summer in an effort to keep the ball down more and avoid putting too much pressure on his body (read: avoiding further oblique injuries). After an injury-plagued regular season, Giles finished on a strong note by striking out 16 of the 46 batters he faced (while walking eight) in the Arizona Fall League.

"It started to get easier and easier," Giles said of his mechanics. "I didn't have to think about it too much."

Giles' potent right arm will bring him to the big leagues before long, as long as he commands the strike zone. When he does arrive, he won't be trying to emulate Lidge, though.

He grew up idolizing another pitcher who, like him, could touch 100 mph on the radar gun.

"Randy Johnson," said Giles, a native of Albuquerque, N.M., who went to Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz. "I loved how he loved to compete, loved to challenge and just go after guys. And he was as scary as hell on the mound. That's what I wanted to mimic.

"So far, everyone I face, even teammates, they see me and they see someone who's about to win the game, close the door. I have that look in my eyes, the body language, the you're-not-going-to-defeat-me kind of deal."

So, you plan on growing a mullet, too?

"I don't do mullets," Giles said with a laugh. "I don't that kind of stuff. I like to keep a buzz cut."

Giles, a seventh-round pick by the Philies in the 2011 draft, has struck out 152 batters while walking 72 in 112 1/3 innings (66 games) in his professional career.

Hamels' next step

Lefthander Cole Hamels will continue his path toward pitching in a game at some point this spring when he throws a bullpen session tomorrow. After an 11-day layoff from throwing while battling fatigue, Hamels threw 20 to 30 pitches off the mound on Wednesday. Hamels said an important step would be feeling strong following that session.

"I feel really good," Hamels said yesterday. "Just with the way I was able to kind of bounce back."

With the clock clicking in Clearwater - camp breaks on March 27 - Hamels might not pitch in a a game until after the Phillies head north.

Howard's first homer

Ryan Howard led off the sixth inning with his first home run of the spring, an opposite-field shot off Pirates righthander Jay Jackson, in the Phillies' 6-5 loss to the Pirates.

Howard previously homered in the Phillies' intrasquad scrimmage on Feb. 25. He is hitting .206 (6-for-30) with a home run, two doubles and 13 strikeouts in 11 games this spring.

"The last 2 days, I think there's been more bat speed, a little more aggression," Sandberg said. "It just comes down to getting more balls in the zone he can handle. And then it's just contact."

Phillers

Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his return to the lineup after a 3-day absence. Rollins is hitless in his last 16 at-bats this spring . . . Righthander Jeff Manship allowed two runs on six hits while striking out three and walking none in four innings. Manship, competing for the vacant fifth starter's job, has a 2.45 ERA in four games this spring . . . The Phils released catcher Lou Marson; he appeared in only three games this spring. Catching prospect Tommy Joseph, outfielders Tyson Gillies and Zach Collier and lefthander Jeremy Horst were optioned to minor league camp. Lefthander Cesar Jimenez and infielder Andres Blanco were reassigned to minor league camp. Sebastian Valle, who was sent to minor league camp last weekend, has returned to big-league camp.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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