PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Phillies fans have begged and pleaded for the 100 mile per hour man, Ken Giles, since learning of his existence. On Thursday afternoon, the 23-year-old right-handed relief pitcher, finally made his Major League Baseball debut. It didn’t exactly go as planned, but Giles took it like a seasoned veteran.
“Everybody’s different on their debut and, unlucky for me, I got a home run on mine,” Giles said after the game. “But that’s a great memory, just thinking first at-bat, gave up a home run, next guy, struck him out. It’s just a good story to tell.”
Giles entered the game with the Phillies holding a commanding 7-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning. The odd part was, Mario Hollands got the first two outs in the inning for the Phillies, before Sandberg turned to the rookie for the final out of the game. Giles admitted he was nervous.
“I was pumped” Giles said. “My legs were a little Jello-y. I thought I was gonna fall down, but once I got to the dirt I was like ‘Oh my god, this is it, my dreams are finally coming true. Now, I’ve got my greatest goal accomplished.'”
The first batter Giles faced was Padres catcher, Yasmani Grandal. Giles was visibly nervous and fidgety facing his first professional baseball hitter.
First pitch? 100 miles per hour strike and a nice cheer from the fans. Second pitch? 99 miles per hour ball and a sarcastic boo from the fans.
Giles then threw two straight balls to fall behind Grandal 3-1. The righty needed to throw a strike next, and he did, but Grandal took the 3-1 fastball to right field and what seemed like a harmless deep fly ball out off the bat, quickly became Giles’ worst nightmare–a home run to the first batter he faced.
“It looked like a plain fly ball to me,” Giles said. “All I was trying to do was get another strike and not make too much of a good pitch. But that’s a great way to welcome me to the big leagues. Once I saw it, Dom [Domonic Brown] was under it, I just stood behind the mound like I would for an out. Next thing I knew, there was stumbling in the bushes. I was like ‘Alright, oh well, on to the next one.'”
Giles recovered, striking out the next batter he faced, Alexi Amarista, on a nasty 2-2 89-MPH slider in the dirt and the Phillies beat the Padres 7-3 for the three-game series sweep.
Giles certainly has the ability to be a successful relief pitcher in the majors, we knew that, but more importantly, for a 23-year-old rookie we learned he has the mindset and confidence as well.
“If I keep doing what I did today, get ahead and throw that slider, no matter if it’s in the dirt or for strikes,” Giles said, “I think I’m gonna do just fine.”
In any aspect of life–whether it be your first day on a new job on your first day of school–first times for anything are nerve-racking. For Giles to have the jitters the first time he toed a Major League rubber, well, that’s normal. For Giles to be able throw an 100-MPH fastball complimented by a devastating slider in the high-80’s, well, that’s not as normal.
And for a young rookie in a new profession to be able to simply shrug off a disappointing debut, exude confidence, call it a “great memory” and say, “I think I’m gonna do just fine,” that is encouraging.
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