Many times in the major league spring training camp you watch which young players the top brass of the team are following to see if they have a chance to crack the opening day 25 man roster. On Saturday morning Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was zeroed in on young relievers Ken Giles and Kevin Munson. It is with young power arms out of the pen, such as the ones Giles and Munson possess, can the Phillies go a long way to returning to the top of the National League East.
It is highly unlikely that the 23 year old Giles will be given a chance to open the season with the Phillies. He has never pitched above single A. But he has major league stuff right now. He showed it last year in the Arizona Fall League where he struck 18 of the best young minor league hitters in baseball in only 11.1 innings and was three for three in save opportunities.
Today on Ashburn Field with former Phillies reliever and radio voice of the Phillies Larry Andersen sitting behind the mound watching him, Giles showed off his mid-90’s fastball and improving slider. Andersen is serving as a guest pitching instructor this spring. Sandberg was parked behind the batting cage watching his every pitch. Giles command was good as he dominated the hitters he faced. Though Giles will likely start at AA Reading, he has major league stuff right now.
Just a few minutes before Giles started warming up to pitch to live hitters on Ashburn, the ubiquitous Sandberg was behind the batting cage at Carlton Field closely watching Kevin Munson work from the mound in live batting practice. The Phillies minor league pitching coordinator Carlos Arroyo also was closing following the action from behind Munson. He impressed by dominating Chase Utley with a back foot slider for a swinging foul tip strike and then a swing and miss on what probably was a mid-90’s fast ball on back to back pitches.
Munson has a better chance to make the opening day roster than does Giles. The Phillies need strong arms out of the pen and if he does not make the 25 man roster Munson must be offered back to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was picked up in the Rule Five draft from them last December.
The 25 year old Munson pitched last year at AA and AAA and averaged better than a strike out an inning while picking up 14 saves in 53 games out of the pen. As with Giles, Munson has struggled with control in his minor league career but this morning both of them showed excellent command and control.
On the way back home after today’s work out Baseball Betsy and I were listening on the car radio to the Rays fanfest from the Trop. It turned out the Phillies were advertising Tuesday’s intrasquad game at Bright House on the Rays broadcast. It and the later minor league intrasquad games are my favorite games of spring training. We get to see the entire organization in action in those intrasquad games.
You can be sure that Ken Giles and Kevin Munson will get an inning of work to show their stuff to Ryne Sandberg again in Tuesday’s major league intrasquad game. For them that game and the next couple spring games in which they pitch will determine where they end up to start the 2014 season and be very defining moments in their careers.