Ken Giles’ rapid ascent through the Phillies system and into the Rookie of the Year race came as a surprise to many, but not to those that saw him and his 100 mph fastballs with the BlueClaws in 2012. Giles came back to Lakewood on Wednesday for the annual Phillies Winter Banquet and recalled his time with the BlueClaws three years ago.
“The fan experience stands out. It’s one of those things you couldn’t really describe in words,” he said. “It’s so special to me that this is where I started to be a professional baseball player. I soaked in every moment of it, I enjoyed myself, and I never had a point where I was stressing out about anything.”
Giles went 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA with the BlueClaws in 2012, making six starts among his 29 appearances and striking out 86 hitters in 67 innings pitched. He only threw 25 innings with Clearwater in 2013, but returned from injury to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, something that Giles considers a turning point in his career.
“That was the biggest point in my career, because I had to learn the different side of baseball and how to come back stronger, better, and smarter,” he said. “That helped me going into the AFL and I brought that into the next spring training too. All my pitching mechanics clicked when I came back from the injury.”
Giles was called in to Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage’s office after a game in June, like had happened several times before.
“You’re going to Cincinnati,” Brundage told him.
Giles didn’t realize the Phillies were in Cincinnati and asked if he’d been traded. He hadn’t. He’d been called up, and after debuting on June 12th, became the 61st player to go From The Shore, To The Show (the total list is now 67).
With the Phillies, Giles went 3-1 with a 1.18 ERA and struck out 64 hitters in 45.2 innings pitched and he’s ready for bigger things in 2015 in a bullpen with Jake Diekman and Jonathan Papelbon (if he doesn’t get traded).
“We’re going to be a hard bullpen to face. People are going to say ‘O man we have to face this bullpen,’ kind of like the Royals. The starter didn’t go long, but they only needed him to go six, because they have the 7-8-9 guy. They have to score runs early.”
Who’s the toughest guy he’s faced? “Definitely Giancarlo Stanton (of the Marlins). He’s just got great bat ability, can hit hard throwers, and if you make a mistake, he’s going to make you pay.”
What did he learn with his first few months with the Phillies? “Be yourself. That’s not trying to showboat or anything, but being yourself. That’s all I did when I got brought up. I’m not going to change who I am, and I’ll be myself around the clubhouse. Once I cross those white lines, I have to be who I am.”
Now, he’s a reliever the National League will have to contend with for many years to come.