By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For much of his career in the Phillies farm system, right-handed pitcher Tyler Cloyd was NOT a name you heard thrown around when the discussion turned to the top prospects in the organization. Safe to say, that is no longer the case.
The 25-year-old Cloyd is in the midst of an unbelievable season. Between AA Reading and AAA Lehigh Valley, he is 11-1 with a 2.07 ERA. This comes after a very good 2011 season, where he went 9-4 between A and AA with a 2.77 ERA.
If this success didn’t quite come completely out of nowhere, it is safe to say that few projected it. In his first three pro seasons, Cloyd was 24-17 with a pedestrian ERA just above four. He says there are a couple reasons for the significant improvement.
“I’m getting my mechanics to the point where they need to be and helping me get the ball down in the zone,” Cloyd tells KYW Newsradio. “That’s probably been the biggest thing that’s helped me the last two years.”
And the development of a cut fastball has also really helped him expand his arsenal.
“Learning how to throw it to both sides of the plate and make the movement different on it just with the grips. That’s been the biggest thing that’s helped me. Work off my fastball, but then at the same time I can work off that too so that’s probably been the biggest thing over the past two years that I’ve learned how to use and how to pitch with.”
Movement is key for Cloyd, because he says he is not going to blow anyone away with his fastball.
“I’m not a power guy, I might throw – maybe touch – 90 in a start. Normally I sit about 86-87, possibly.”
Cloyd’s rather sudden emergence in the organization kind of fits in with his career arc, because he says he was surprised he even got drafted back in 2008 when the Phillies took him in the 18th round.
“I sat out a year of college on an academic suspension and I hadn’t played much baseball in a year and I went down to Arizona to play summer ball down there. Our opening day down there was actually draft day and I got the call about 2:00pm and heard that I got drafted. So it shocked me and it took me a little bit to finally decide that I was going to sign. But its been the best thing that’s happened to me so far.”
Cloyd’s run of success here in 2012 started on Opening Night, but not in the way that was expected. Cloyd was slated to start the year at AA Reading, but had to make an emergency Opening Day start for the AAA Iron Pigs when Dave Bush was suspended. All he did in his AAA debut was throw six perfect innings. He would head back to Reading to go 3-0 in 4 starts before returning to the Iron Pigs where he has dominated to the point that he is slated to start the Triple-A All-Star Game next week.
“It’s definitely an honor, to be named the starting pitcher for that day – just an honor to be named an All-Star in the time that I’ve been up here. So it’s going to be fun, so hopefully we can go out and have a lot of fun with it.”
Cloyd’s success has gotten attention here in Philadelphia. You heard his name thrown around as a possibility when the Phillies needed a starting pitcher last week against Pittsburgh. They instead decided to throw a bullpen game, but you have to imagine it is only a matter of time before he gets the call to come on down to Citizens Bank Park. But he says he doesn’t think about what that moment will be like.
“I don’t. I concentrate on what I have to do here to help the team and my next start to help the team and everything in between that. When that call comes, whenever it comes, that’s when I’ll start thinking about that and what I have to do then.”
If he just keeps doing what he is now, that will probably be enough for everyone.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.