Heading into this season, the Phillies bullpen seems like the area with the most potential. With Jonathan Papelbon anchoring the young arms of Ken Giles, Jake Diekman and others, the relief core has a really great opportunity to do great things in 2015.
The biggest story from the 2014 season, with the exception of "Crotchgate", was the emergence of rookie flamethrower, Ken Giles. He posted a phenomenal 1.18 ERA for the Phillies, striking out 64 batters in just 45.2 innings. Giles spoke to Scott Palmer of Phillies.com about a variety of topics including how crucial the bullpen is for the team this year.
"Bullpen is going to be the biggest part of this year, it’s going to be our strength and maybe we can build off that and produce more runs this year and then you never know what will happen."
Giles hit the big league scene and turned heads almost immediately with his 100mph fastball and tricky slider. After finishing fourth in voting for Rookie of the Year, Palmer asked Giles what the biggest thing was that he learned as a big league player last season.
"Just going about your business. It’s no different than being a starter or a middle relief guy. It’s about going out there, doing your job and getting those outs. That’s all that matters out there. Just getting those three outs. You can do it any way you can possible. It can be strikeouts, I can be ground balls…anyway to get those outs, you’re going to have a successful career."
One of the craziest moments of Giles interview brought the 24-year-old back to 2012 during his time with the Lakewood Blueclaws. That was when Giles really started to believe in himself, thanks to Joe Jordan, the Phillies Director of Player Development. After a game in Lakewood, Giles and Jordan watched the MLB All-Star game together. The conversation between the two went something like this:
Jordan: "You know who this guy is?"
Giles: “No, I don’t know who this guy is."
Jordan: "You don’t watch any baseball?"
Giles: "No, I just play the sport, I don’t watch baseball."
The guy Jordan was referring to? Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves. Giles continued:
"At the time I was so focused on myself, I didn’t really watch baseball. Even as a young kid, I didn’t watch baseball."
After seeing Kimbrel's stuff, Giles remained confident in his abilities moving forward.
"Yeah, I can be better than that guy, I can do better. I mean he’s good, he’s young. He’s not much older than I am. He’s got good stuff, but I think I can push myself to be better."
When asked if that moment was a turning point in his career as a minor leaguer, Giles had this to say:
"I think it was. He [Jordan] said this is what I can become and this is what us in the organization see you as. They said you have the velocity, but we also see the confidence and the ability to produce that slider, that’s what they saw in me."
Since coming up to the Phillies, one of Giles' biggest mentors has been Jonathan Papelbon. He has saved 106 games in three seasons as the Phillies closer and 38 of them came last year. Many fans have been calling for Giles to overtake Papelbon in the closer role, but with limited suitors in the trade market, options are slim right now. Giles will continue to set up for him, but when the time comes for Papelbon to leave, Giles is confident the bullpen will be in good hands.
"He means everything to our bullpen right now. He’s the glue, he’s our leader. When that time comes and he has to move on, he’ll have all the confidence in the world to leave us behind and that we can take over from there. But, right now, he’s our leader and I think it’s going to be a big part of this year. The sky’s the limit for us."
The Phillies are predicted by many to finish last in the NL East with under 70 wins. According to Giles, him and his teammates want to prove everyone wrong and he isn't a fan of the teams perception in the media.
"Everyone’s got a chip on their back. As for me, I don’t like what I’m hearing about how we don’t have a good chance, just cause of the way we’re going and what the front office has been saying . But, you know what? It doesn’t matter, cause we’re out there to play baseball. You never know what’ll happen in baseball, I mean, everything’s up for grabs. Everybody in this clubhouse wants to prove something and everybody wants to prove everybody wrong and that’s what’s so great about this year."
You can check out Giles' complete interview with Palmer right here: