Gavin Floyd: Ready or Not?

There are some new guys in town, like centerfielder Kenny Lofton, and starting pitcher Jon Lieber and those who are in new positions within the Phillies organization, such as new hitting coach Milt Thompson and manager Charlie Manuel. Then, there is young pitcher Gavin Floyd.

22 year old Gavin Floyd, the Phillies top right-handed prospect, was called up from Scranton last year when the rotation fell apart and Randy Wolf was lost to injury. He pitched 28 innings and finished the season with a 3.49 ERA, gave up just one homerun and 11 earned runs in six starts. Not bad, considering the enormous pressure he was under.

Floyd exhibited a healthy amount of maturity and poise in his first two starts; his first start, against the Mets, was a glittering debut as he silenced their offense with his commanding fastball and well known breaking curve ball, and after seven innings, walked away with a 1.29 ERA. He moved easily through every inning, except for giving up a longball to give the Mets a run. That would be the only homerun he would surrender in all six of his starts.

In his second start, against the Braves, he gave up only one earned run and finished with a 1.64 ERA. There were obviously some things he was struggling with that night as he did not have great command of his pitches as he did against the Mets. Still, he pitched his way through the struggles and left a strong impression.

In his next four starts Floyd's ERA would climb a bit, and although he would not get a win again, lack of run support from the Phillies offense didn't help matters, he did keep his ERA under 3.00 in three of four of those games; against Florida it would climb to 3.49.

The question going into the 2005 season is whether or not he is fully prepared to pitch deep consistently in the majors. He proved how effective he can be at the major league level but it's possible he may need more time to develop. Larry Bowa had suggested to the press at the end of last season that Floyd needed "another half a season" in the minors. Maturity is the key factor. It should also be said that for someone as young as he is, he needs to feel confident about the guys pitching before him. With Randy Wolf coming off of injury, Brett Myers coming off of a disappointing 2004 season and no clear true ace at the top, the rotation doesn't seem solid. All eyes will certainly be on the new kid. It will also be important, obviously, that the bullpen stays healthy this year. They were overworked last year, with the onslaught of injuries suffered in the rotation. The shuffling of the roles in the bullpen also took their toll and the once effective pen imploded late in the season.

There has long been buzz about Gavin Floyd and Phillies fans, and especially those who have followed his career through the minors. In 2001 his breaking ball was voted second best in high school ranks by Baseball America and his fastball was consistently in the low-to-mid 90 mph range. That year he was a first round draft pick for the Phillies, fourth overall in the June Draft. He became the first Lakewood BlueClaw invited to the Phillies camp and the youngest non-roster invitee since Lebo Powell in 1982 after ranking in the top ten in ERA and innings in the Southern Atlantic League.

In his 2002 season in A ball at Lakewood, he finished the year with a 2.77 ERA in 27 games and 166 innings pitched and a win-loss record of 11-10. Though he struggled with consistency the following year at Clearwater in 2003, he would be promoted to AA Reading where he maintained the lowest ERA of his career going 6-6 in 20 games with an ERA of 2.57, ranking second in the Eastern League. In July he would go 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA. He was quickly promoted to AAA Scranton and although his ERA bloated to 4.99 in five games, he was called up by the Phillies for the spot in the rotation, vacated by an injured Randy Wolf.

When Floyd put on Tom Seaver's number, 41, in August of last season he gave an impression of someone who was both focused and fully aware of what was happening to him. "I can't get too stressed about it," he was quoted as saying before his debut. "I have high expectations of myself, so there is no added pressure. I can't really worry about it when I'm out there." Then manager Larry Bowa was also very clear. "We have to be careful with him. He's our top prospect." The Phillies had to go to him though and ultimately it proved what he was capable of. Floyd was able to perform under pressure and gave the team the quality pitching they desperately needed and a glimpse at the future.

Over four seasons, Gavin Floyd has grown at a rapid pace. The Phillies ultimate plan, or so it's been said, is to keep Floyd in a Phillies uniform for the next decade. For years, people have known he was special and that it would not take him long to reach the major league level. Paraphrasing a catchy line, "Now is his time." And it is thrilling to look forward to.

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