Who is the hottest relief pitcher in the Phillies organization right now? It certainly is not the $50 million closer pitching for the major league team. He was roughed up by the Rays Saturday and blew his first save of the year. It’s not the AAA closer who was acquired in the Cliff Lee deal designed to replenish the farm system. He blew a save too on Saturday for Lehigh Valley. It might be the AA closer Justin Friend who did pick up a save on Saturday but he can not throw a fastball 95 mph or has an unhittable breaking pitch. So it must be Tyler Knigge, the high A, Clearwater Thresher closer.
Knigge has been unhittable since a rough outting where he walked three batters and was charged with the loss in the Florida State League All Star game last weekend. In the three games since then Knigge has won one, picked up two saves and struck out 7 of the last 8 batters he has faced. He did not let a little adversity affect him as he bounced right back. On Saturday and Sunday nights he struck out all three batters he faced each time to pick up saves against the Daytona Cubs and the Palm Beach Cardinals. He saved the weekend not only for the Threshers but gives hope for a brighter Phillies bullpen sometime in the future.
It’s always the darkest before the dawn. After just finishing watching the Phillies bullpen implode in the three games over the weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays, Casey Stengel’s quote about the 1962 Mets of “can’t anybody play this here game” came to mind. The Phillies have hit the darkest bottom with the guys out of the pen at the major league level but with pitchers like Tyler Knigge in the organization a new day is dawning.
Knigge reminds me of a young Brad Lidge who in his prime had an over powering fastball and a lights out slider. I have been fortunate enough to watch Knigge pitch this year in many games with the Threshers. So far he has an 0.73 ERA with a 4-1 record to go along with six saves. He has taken over the closer role with the Threshers from Hector Neris and Tyler has risen to the challenge. He is coming into his own as the go to guy in the back end of the Threshers’ bullpen.
Knigge is the kind of power arm the Phillies need in the future coming out of the bullpen. At 23, the 12th round draft pick back in 2010 could either pitch in a set up or closer role. His improvement over last season with Lakewood where he had a 4-3 record with a 3.32 ERA has been dramatic. I would not be surprised to see him move up to AA or even AAA in the very near future. We all know even before this weekend how the Phillies need power arms out of the pen at the highest level in the organization.