What Does The Future Hold For Gavin Floyd?

After a season full of struggles at both the major league level and at AAA, Gavin Floyd has plenty of question marks surrounding him. This winter, Floyd is in Puerto Rico looking to get himself back on track and headed north to Philadelphia for next season.

Even if he wouldn't admit it, Gavin Floyd has to be glad that Vicente Padilla was dealt to Texas. With Padilla out of the picture, there are now two spots up for grabs in the starting rotation. One of those spots could be taken by Ryan Madson, but the other is wide open. Floyd won't be handed that fifth spot. Instead, he'll compete with Robinson Tejeda and Eude Brito, who both had better seasons in 2005 than Floyd. Overall though, Floyd has always been considered the better prospect and he'll need to show that in the spring.

By the end of 2005, Floyd was a mess. His mechanics were screwed up and at times, the top prospect seemed to simply be lost on the mound. His cool demeanor was gone and it seemed that there was no end to the struggles that Floyd endured. He was definitely healthy, but mentally, he was ready for a merciful end to the season.

Many times, there are debates as to whether to send a young pitcher to winter ball or not, but the Phillies were in agreement that the last thing Floyd needed was to sit around all winter. With that in mind, Floyd headed to Puerto Rico to challenge himself to get better.

In six starts this winter, Floyd has looked more like the dominating Gavin Floyd of old, but he's still shown some issues. Over his last three starts, Floyd has lowered his ERA from 4.63 to 2.03. A far cry from the 6.16 ERA he posted at AAA Scranton and much better than the 10.04 mark he set with the Phillies in seven games last season. Control, which was a solid trait of Floyd until he hit Philadelphia late in the 2004 season, was rocky early in the season, but has improved. In 31 innings, Floyd has struck out 19, but he's walked 11 hitters over that period. The good news is that over his last 19 innings, Floyd has walked just five and struck out nine.

By all accounts, Floyd is healthy and that's a good sign. Of course, if it were an injury, there may be easier ways to fix the problem. Mechanically, Floyd has also gotten better pitching in Puerto Rico, but mechanically, he's still not quite the Gavin Floyd of old. It has to be mentioned that there are some pitchers, who lose their mechanics and for whatever reason, never get them back. The Phillies - and Floyd - can only hope right now that Floyd isn't going to be one of those pitchers. His outings in Puerto Rico definitely suggest progress.

If all is right with the world, Floyd will win a spot in the Phillies' rotation out of spring training. It would be a huge relief to the Phillies and their fans to see Floyd put up the kind of numbers - using the pinpoint control that he showed earlier in his career - and truly start what has always figured to be an impressive major league career. The competition next spring may be a little tilted in Floyd's favor, because unless Tejeda or Brito truly beat him out of a job, it's likely that the Phillies will give the fifth spot to Floyd, hoping to avoid any mental downfall that could come from another demotion to AAA.

It's somewhat ironic that the two guys who were one and two in the rankings of future Phillies pitching stars - Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels - are both coming into key seasons. Hamels is fighting injuries and the trappings of youth, while Floyd is simply fighting himself. Both need big seasons to show that their problems are behind them and that they will be the pitchers that they were both figured on being for the Phillies.

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