Ken Giles hits 100 mph, taken deep in MLB debut

Ken Giles hits 100 mph, taken deep in MLB debut
June 12, 2014, 6:15 pm
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Ken Giles on Tuesday made his major-league debut and the first pitch he threw registered 100 mph on the Citizens Bank Park radar gun. (USA Today Images)

Phillies fans have been clamoring for Ken Giles since word first surfaced that he could reach triple digits.

With each scoreless outing at Double A, with each multi-strikeout inning, the "100 Miles Giles" mythos grew.

When the Phils ran through Phillippe Aumont and Cesar Jimenez and Luis Garcia and Shawn Camp in their struggling bullpen, many wondered when Giles would get a shot and why he wasn't being considered.

On Thursday afternoon, Giles' major-league debut finally came, four days after his promotion from Triple A.

And, as advertised, the first pitch he threw to Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal registered 100 mph on the Citizens Bank Park radar gun.

"I was pumped" Giles said. "My legs were a little Jello-y, I thought I was gonna fall down [on the way in from the bullpen]. But once I got to the dirt I was like 'Oh my god, this is it, my dreams are finally coming true, now I've got my greatest goal accomplished.'"

Giles couldn't have expected what happened next. After getting ahead of Grandal with strike one, Giles threw three straight balls that weren't particularly close to the zone. On a 3-1 count, Grandal, who after the game found out that Giles is the nephew of his next-door neighbor, simply extended his hands and hit a 95 mph fastball the other way. What looked like a routine flyout to left kept carrying and carrying until Domonic Brown ran out of room.

Just like that, Giles' major-league ERA reached infinity. Can only get better from there.

"It looked like a plain flyball to me," Giles said. "All I was trying to do was get another strike and not make too much of a good pitch. But that's a great way to welcome me to the big leagues. ... Once I saw it, Dom was under it, I just stood behind the mound like I would for an out. Next thing I knew, there was stumbling in the bushes. I was like 'Alright, oh well, on to the next one.'"

As manager Ryne Sandberg put it, Giles "probably supplied some extra power there."

After the home run, Giles recovered to strike out Alexi Amarista to preserve a 7-3 Phillies win (see Instant Replay). It was a low leverage situation, an ideal way to ease in a rookie that is dealing with lofty expectations. Giles was just glad to be back on a mound, no matter where or what the situation was.

"It was a little stressful because I just wanted to get it out of the way," the 23-year-old rookie said. "Plus I haven't pitched in so long. After the first couple of days I was like, I don't even care anymore, I just want to pitch. It had been so long, and I love the game that much. I just wanted to play, that's all it is."

Giles hadn't appeared in a game in eight days. And the Louisville Bats of the International League are quite a different opponent than the San Diego Padres. (Though, admittedly, with the way the Padres are playing, it might not be by much.)

"I knew there was gonna be a difference, they would be a lot stronger [in the majors]," Giles said. "But I never thought it'd be -- it just looked like a routine flyball going out by inches -- but that's just part of the game, that's how the game goes.

"Everybody's different on their debut and, unlucky for me, I got a home run on mine. But that's a great memory, just thinking first at-bat, gave up a home run, next guy, struck him out. It's just a good story to tell."

Giles will be hoping to tell that story for a long time. If he flames out like so many other power-armed relievers before him, it won't mean as much. But if he can stick around, if he can work ahead in counts and use his high-80s slider -- which he termed a "wipeout pitch" -- to complement a fastball that even major-leaguers will struggle to catch up with, then perhaps that ninth-inning strikeout will be the first of many.

"If I keep doing what I did today, get ahead and throw that slider, no matter if it's in the dirt or for strikes," Giles said, "I think I'm gonna do just fine."

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