As Will Savage reported to minor league camp in Clearwater, he came in looking for his third championship in three seasons. He arrived in Lakewood late in the 2006 season, but played a big part in their run to the South Atlantic League title and then spent the entire 2007 season in Clearwater, where the Threshers also picked up a league championship.
"It's an amazing thing, really," said Savage about the feeling of playing for a championship. "You actually don't start to feel the nicks and bruises and you get a second wind."
The two seasons were remarkably different in that Lakewood was well on their way to the title in 2006 when Savage came to town, but in Clearwater, he got to be there for the entire ride. The teams were very different as well. "In Lakewood, we were supposed to win, but it was very different in Clearwater. We were always the underdogs and even though players left and got promoted, we still kept winning," laughed Savage. The race came down to the final weekend and before all was said and done, the Threshers had taken the Florida State League title and in two post-seasons, Savage had not allowed as much as a hit.
Savage is still just 23 and seems destined to be at Double-A Reading this season, either for the full year or at least by later in the season. His numbers at Clearwater were good enough to warrant the promotion, but there is always the chance that the Phillies will be cautious and let Savage continue to get his work in with the Threshers. In a very candid moment though, Savage admits that he wants to be at Reading to start the 2008 season. "I think I've earned it," he said confidently. "I'm looking forward to moving up and facing new challenges." Many believe the jump from High-A to Double-A to be the toughest in baseball and Savage admitted that he can see tougher times ahead as the competition gets better. More and more, hitters are able to take advantage of mistakes that pitchers throw up there and Savage noticed that in his time at Clearwater, although he started his stint there with 12 scoreless innings of work. He hit a bit of a bump in late May, but righted himself and got things headed in the right direction, finishing with a tidy 3.63 ERA. Besides simply wanting to get to Double-A, Savage believes there would be a fringe benefit to making the jump. "I'm looking forward to working with Tom Filer [Reading's pitching coach]. He's been a big help and I think it would be great to work with him for a longer period of time," said Savage.
In talking to Savage, it's easy to see just how confident he is, but it doesn't come across with any tinge of arrogance. Instead, it's just the calm demeanor of a young pitcher who believes in his skills and is ready for whatever comes up. Bring up the subject of the only home run that he's given up in two professional seasons and Savage is quick to point out that the wind was blowing out and certainly aided the distance. Ask what role he wants to pitch in and you get an honest answer. "Right now, I see myself as a set-up guy," admits Savage. He quickly adds though that he can handle the mental part of closing and will do whatever the Phillies want him to do and pitch in any way that they see fit.
Will Savage was ranked as the 34th best prospect in the Phillies organization by Philly Baseball News. Read our scouting report [and check out Will Savage's stats] to find out more about what makes Will Savage one of the young players in the organization to keep an eye on.