Ken Giles turning heads with his heat in Reading

Ken Giles turning heads with his heat in Reading
April 22, 2014, 8:00 am
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Ken Giles has pitched nine scoreless innings this season at Double A Reading with 18 strikeouts and just two hits allowed. (USA Today Images)

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.

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