As Papelbon stays, Ken Giles waits and shines

As Papelbon stays, Ken Giles waits and shines
August 1, 2014, 11:00 am
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Ken Giles has 30 strikeouts, four walks and a 0.87 ERA in 20 2/3 innings this season. (USA Today Images)

WASHINGTON -- Amid the frustration of the Phillies' inability to commence a much-needed retooling effort with a trade and the pain of another injury to Cliff Lee, there was an exciting bolt of electricity for fans to enjoy on Thursday night.

It came when reliever Ken Giles blew a 100-mph fastball by Washington’s Jayson Werth to preserve a three-run lead in the seventh inning of what ended up a 10-4 Phillies win.

Giles has been a rare success story for the Phillies in the dark season of 2014. He’s tamed his bucking-bronco delivery and that has allowed him to stay healthy and control his once wild fastball.

Nineteen games into his big-league career, the 23-year-old Giles has pitched 20 2/3 innings and allowed just 12 hits and two runs. His command numbers -- 30 strikeouts and four walks -- are eye-popping.

With his power and icy stare, Giles has future closer written all over him and, rest assured, it will happen someday. Just as Mariano Rivera once succeeded John Wetteland early in the New York Yankees-Joe Torre era dynasty, Giles will succeed Jonathan Papelbon.

But it’s not happening now.

Another trade deadline passed on Thursday without Papelbon going anywhere.

The outspoken veteran closer had strongly expressed his desire to be traded to a contender, but it did not happen. So, barring an August waiver deal or an off-season trade, he remains the Phillies’ closer for the rest of this season and next -- he also has a vesting option for 2016. As long as Papelbon is here and getting the job done, he’s the Phillies' closer.

He doesn’t want to be a setup man for the Phillies. And he doesn’t want to be a setup man with another club if he’s ever traded. He’d likely use his 17-team no-trade clause to block a deal to a team that wanted to use him as a setup man.

“No,” Papelbon said when asked Thursday if he’d have interest in setting-up for a contending team. “I don’t set up -- and you should know that.”

(We did know that. Papelbon said it weeks ago.)

What if you could win a World Series setting up?

“The chance to win a World Series is with me closing. Period,” he said.

Papelbon will likely go on waivers in the coming days -- he might already be there -- as the Phillies try to gain the flexibility to trade him in August. He is owed the remainder of $13 million for this season, $13 million more for next season, and will be guaranteed another $13 million in 2016 if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or a total of 100 games in 2014 and 2015.

Given the money he is owed, Papelbon is likely to get through waivers. The Phillies would be willing to eat money on his contract to move him. They have long had that willingness, but have not been able to find a taker.

A player who has been vocal about wanting out has the potential to be a problem when he doesn’t get his wish. Papelbon hasn’t always been the portrait of contentment in the Phillies’ clubhouse, but has been much more personable -- human, even -- in recent weeks, the latest example of the old adage, “They learn to say hello when it’s time to say good-bye.” Though he hates all the losing that this team has endured, Papelbon genuinely likes being part of this bullpen, which features some young promise such as Giles.

So, he said, it won’t be a letdown to stay in Philadelphia the rest of the season.

Why?

“I think we have a phenomenal bullpen here in Philadelphia and I would like to be a part of that.” he said. “Nothing wrong with being a part of a great bullpen.”

Don’t misunderstand. Papelbon is still eager to go to a winner if GM Ruben Amaro Jr. can strike a deal. The two men have talked in recent days.

“Ruben and I had a great talk,” Papelbon said. “If he could trade me and the trade was right for both the Phillies and the other ball club, then a trade could happen. But if it wasn't right for the Phillies, he wasn't going to do it.

“At the same time, he also promised me that we were going to compete year after year and there's no rebuilding here with the Phillies, and no matter what it took to put a winner on the field, he was going to do it. So that was a big boost for me to say, 'Well, if Ruben can give me that, then, yeah, I would love to stay here and be a big part of this bullpen, which I think can be very, very good.'"

The Phillies need to make big changes if they are going to contend any time soon, and they missed a chance to start making changes at this trade deadline.

Papelbon was asked if he knew exactly what Amaro was going to do to make this team a winner.

“No,” he said. “And that’s a great question.”

Papelbon’s future in Philadelphia is another question surrounding this team.

Giles’ future is not in question. He is a big part of this team going forward, either as Papelbon’s setup man or successor.

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