Ken Giles turning heads with his heat in Reading

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Ken Giles turning heads with his heat in Reading

READING, Pa. — Throw a baseball 100 mph and people will take notice.

Throw a baseball 100 mph while pitching in an organization in which the relief pitchers have had a rough start to the season and people will really take notice.

For Double A Reading relief pitcher Ken Giles, the fastball is making a lot of people take notice this season. But then again, Giles says his fastball has always made folks sit up and take notice. During Monday night’s game against the Giants' affiliate, the Double A Richmond Flying Squirrels at First Energy Stadium, Giles hit 100 mph on the stadium radar gun on his first two pitches.

Just to show he wasn’t kidding around, Giles fired one up there at 101 mph during his two innings on the mound.

You know, just in case they weren’t paying attention.

“It was good to go out there and really let loose,” Giles said.

Giles has been cutting loose with his right arm for a little while now. In fact, like a basketball player remembering his first dunk, Giles can recall the first time he ever threw a baseball 100 mph. It was during his sophomore year at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz. when Giles first hit triple digits and he has been letting it go ever since.

“That’s when it all started,” Giles said.

Maybe it started before that. Even when he was a little leaguer, Giles wanted to be a reliever. More specifically, he wanted to be a closer. To come into a game in the heat of the battle with the game on the line is when he thrives, Giles said, and there is nothing like a challenge.

“I was born to be a reliever,” he said. “Since Day 1 I knew I was going to be a reliever. I never was going to be the stud pitcher. When I was young I always wanted to be a closer or a reliever -- a go-to guy.

“I love that role, I like to be challenged. I could come in for the fifth in a tight ballgame, I’m more than happy to do that. But I like it when it’s really challenging -- I want to be the first guy out of that 'pen.”

For Reading, Giles has been thrown into the tough roles. He has used the heater to notch 18 strikeouts in nine innings with three walks and two hits in seven appearances. He has notched five saves this season and has not allowed an earned run.

On Thursday night, Giles allowed his second hit of the season, which counts as news for the righty these days. After getting a quick 0-2 count on Angel Villalona with those back-to-back 100 mph pitches, Giles threw his 88 mph slider. Villalona, looking for the heat, got out in front of it and dropped it in to left field for a single.

From there, Giles retired the final six batters he faced, picking up two strikeouts and getting a chance to work on his slider. If there is one facet of his repertoire Giles wants to work on this season, it’s his secondary pitches ... make that secondary pitch.

“When guys are fouling stuff off and we know they’re trying to ambush me, it’s a go-to pitch,” Giles said. “I have a good feeling to it and it's a pretty tough pitch to hit.”

It needs some work, though. Reading manager Dusty Wathan said Giles' stats look good in the box score, but his fastball and slider need some fine-tuning. Considering that Giles appeared in only 24 games for Class A Clearwater last season, the game action can only help him.

Besides, when everyone knows what a pitcher is going to throw, it better be a pretty good pitch.

“He threw his slider a bit tonight -- he has to. Big-league hitters can hit 100 mile per hour fastballs if you don’t locate them,” Wathan said. “It’s all about locating his fastball and developing his slider and being able to throw it in-and-out when he needs to.”

As far as his physical location this season, Giles isn’t looking to join the Phillies any time soon. Though the Phillies' relievers have the worst ERA (5.80) in the majors, and a guy with a 100 mph fastball and 88 mph slider might be a great asset for the late innings, the 23-year-old is biding his time.

Yes, the call to the big leagues would be nice, but there are things to do down on the farm, first.

“I’m focused on right here and being here and doing what I need to do,” Giles said. “I’m just getting ready for whenever they need me.”

Besides, Giles' teammates with Reading won't allow him to get too far ahead of himself. Since most of the organization's top prospects are playing for Reading, Giles has done a pretty good job of blending in.

Even with that 100 mph fastball.

“We’re all goofy enough here so [a call to the big leagues] never pops into my mind,” he said.

Not yet, anyway.

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

The final eight games remaining on the Phillies’ 2016 schedule will undoubtedly serve as a farewell to Ryan Howard.

Lost in the background may be the fact this week could quite possibly be the end for the man who was supposed to platoon alongside him this year, as well: Darin Ruf.

Both men have been supplanted by Tommy Joseph, who's hit 21 home runs in just 100 games this year while positioning himself as the Phillies first baseman of the near future.

Ruf will start Saturday night against Mets’ lefthander Sean Gilmartin. The Phillies are not scheduled to face a lefty starter for the rest of the season, so Saturday could be one of the final chances to see Ruf in a Phillies uniform, especially considering manager Pete Mackanin’s stated intent to give Howard more playing time down the stretch.

“It seemed like we never faced a lefty for the first month of the season. So that didn’t help Ruf at the time,” Mackanin said.  “Joseph entered the picture and made an immediate impression.”

Ruf’s departure from the majors set the stage for Joseph’s immediate emergence. At the time of his May 13 demotion to AAA Lehigh Valley – and Joseph’s promotion -- Ruf was had a .158/.206/.193 slash line.
  
Since his Sept. 1 return to the majors after rosters expanded, Ruf has done what he can to make sure his possible final season in a Phillies uniform ends on a high note. On Friday night, he drilled a home run to left center off Mets reliever Josh Smoker in pinch-hit duty, the first time Ruf had gone yard since Oct. 1, 2015.

“It felt good,” Ruf said about ending his home run drought. “You just try to simply things and last night it worked out for me.”

Where Ruf will be next year is a more complicated matter, as the 30-year-old is out of minor league options. Japanese scouts were spotted at the games he played for AAA Lehigh Valley.

With Lehigh Valley, Ruf received an opportunity he’s never truly been able to get with the Phillies due to the longstanding presence of Howard: a chance to play every day and consistently accumulate plate appearances. He hit .294/.356/.529 in 390 trips to the plate for the IronPigs. 

Ruf has never made more than 300 plate appearances in a major league season and would struggle to crack that number if he remains in Philadelphia as a backup to Joseph, who will still be 25 on opening day next year.

“I learned [this year] that you can’t take anything for granted in this game,” Ruf said. “You’ve just got to keep working to get better every day, got to put up numbers no matter where you’re at in order to get to where you want. 

“Hopefully, wherever I’m at next year, I can do that.”

Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Jorge Alfaro is behind the plate for the Phillies tonight and bats eighth. Alfaro has appeared in just four games since being called up earlier this month, and has just one hit in 10 at-bats. 

Tommy Joseph is back in the lineup and batting fifth. Pete Mackanin has said that Ryan Howard would get a lot of playing time during the last few games, but it is Joseph who gets the start tonight. Joseph is batting just .154 against the Mets this season. 

Odubel Herrera, who has been hitting well in September, will remain in the three spot. He has two homers and is batting .391 over the past week. Herrera has two hits in six at-bats against Mets' starter Sean Gilmartin. 

Phillies

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, RF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF 
4. Maikel Franco, 3B 
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Darin Ruf, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Alec Asher, P