Floyd's big league pitching debut is a hit

Former Mount St. Joseph star goes 7, gets victory for Phillies

September 04, 2004|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - The mannerisms were the same, the pitches just as effective, and the result was the same. Only former Mount St. Joseph star Gavin Floyd did it on a higher level last night.

Making his major league debut for the Philadelphia Phillies at Citzens Bank Park, Floyd, 21, gave up four hits, struck out five and walked four in seven innings in an 8-1 victory over the New York Mets.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound right-hander, who threw 95 pitches, was brilliant in posting his first big league victory, much the same way he rang up wins at Mount St. Joseph.

"I was more nervous in the bullpen warming up than I was when I got out on the mound," said Floyd after the game in the clubhouse in front of a horde of media. "I just tried to stay focused on the hitters. It's really big to get that first win and focus on my next start."

Called up Wednesday from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Floyd, from Severna Park, took the mound last night with the confidence, poise and intensity that that made him The Sun's three-time All-Metro pitcher and two-time Player of the Year while at Mount St. Joseph.

He still pulls at the top of his jersey sleeve, toes at the dirt in front of the pitching rubber, and trots onto the field before his teammates to start an inning.

And more importantly, his mid-90 mph fastball and nasty curveball were still there to keep the Mets off balance.

With his parents Rodney and Elaine, family, friends and his former Maryland Orioles summer and Oriolelanders fall coach, Dean Albany, among the 37,267 fans on hand, Floyd rose to the occasion in the first inning and got better as the game went on.

Eric Valent ripped Floyd's first pitch of the game into right field for a single, but Jeff Keppinger hit into the first of three double plays behind the rookie.

Floyd struck out Cliff Floyd looking to end the first inning, and he was on his way.

"After getting that double play, I felt a lot better," Floyd said. "I realized I got my first inning over with, but then I got nervous thinking now I might have eight more."

Floyd struck out David Wright, who played for the Virginia Beach fall team against Floyd and the Oriolelanders in his high school days, to start the second inning, the first of two 1-2-3 innings.

Valent hit a one-out homer for the Mets' only run in the third. That tied the game at 1-1, but the Phillies staked Floyd to a 3-1 lead after five and scored five runs in the seventh inning.

Floyd had thrown only 69 pitches through five innings. After he pitched out of a fifth-inning jam by getting Valent to hit into a 4-6-3 double play, Floyd was allowed to bat the bottom of the inning, but he struck out.

"I think he [Phillies manager Larry Bowa] had faith in what I can do and let me continue," Floyd said.

Floyd again was the first Phillie on the field in the top of the sixth, and he retired the Mets on seven pitches. Keppinger led off with a single, but Floyd got Mike Piazza to ground into a double play.

"I had seen [Piazza] on television and all," Floyd said. "I just stayed focused ... I was more committed to beating him than wow, I've seen this guy before on TV."

The Phillies made Floyd their No. 1 pick and the fourth overall selection in the 2001 free-agent draft and signed him for $4.2 million. They are committed to keeping him.

"We've actually been criticized here in recent weeks because of our inactivity at the trading deadline," said Ed Wade, Philadelphia's general manager.

"We could have made a lot of deals if we had been willing to talk about people like Gavin. I think everybody recognizes what Gavin's upside is, and we believe he's a top-of-the-rotation starter for a long time."

Floyd got the chance to start a little faster than the Phillies had hoped because of an injury to left-hander Randy Wolf. They wanted to give him a taste of the big leagues this month and invite him back to spring training a third straight year in 2005.

"It's a little more accelerated for him than we expected at this point, but we think he's up to the challenge," Wade said.

Said Phillies pitching coach Joe Kerrigan: "I thought he was outstanding tonight in his major league debut. He showed a lot of composure and poise, and really had an electric curveball."

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