Antonio Bastardo, Vance Worley, Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone.
What do these four pitchers have in common other than the fact that none of them are currently playing for the Philadelphia Phillies?
They all made their ML debuts with Philadelphia within the past six years, each lasting at least five innings, surrendering no more than three earned runs, striking out at least five and giving up no more than seven hits. As of Sunday’s start against the St. Louis Cardinals, we can now add 25-year-old Adam Morgan to that club as well.
In a much anticipated debut outing, Morgan pitched very well, allowing six hits and just one earned run, a home run, over 5.2 innings pitched. His command did float in and out a few times, resulting in the solo shot by Jhonny Peralta and he did find himself working out of trouble in the second inning, but other than that, Morgan pitched well against a Cardinals lineup that is fourth in the league in OBP and sixth in batting average.
Morgan managed to get through the lineup twice and even the first two hitters three times. While it was clear the Cardinals hitters were more comfortable the second time around, so was Morgan, and only Peralta really made him pay with the home run.
It was the best outing by a debuting Philly pitcher since Bastardo went six innings and gave up one earned back in June 2009. But what Phillies fans might remember is that this was Bastardo’s only quality starting pitching performance. He finished the month with a 2-3 record in five starts and a 6.75 ERA. His last three starts, Bastardo surrendered 14 earned runs and six walks over just 11.2 innings pitched. He was sent back down to the minors before July and in his career, hasn’t made another start since.
Bastardo isn’t the only Phillie to begin his time in the bigs in a similar manner. In fact, of the four names mentioned above, not a single one managed to turn their solid debuts into anything more than a mediocre career. Bastardo became a reliever, Cloyd, who debuted in 2012, found himself back in the minors, Pettibone, who debuted in 2013, pitched well until a shoulder injury cost him all of the next season and so far all of 2015 and Worley, who debuted in 2010, is currently with the Pittsburgh Pirates, having a decent albeit unspectacular season.
Now, this isn’t to say that Morgan will be the latest to join this long list of Phillies pitchers who started strong and fizzled after just one start. It is just to say that the team and the fans would be wise to temper their excitement and utilize a phrase I use often by being “cautiously optimistic” about what this could mean for the young, hard-throwing lefty’s career.
One of the things Morgan has going for him right now that the other four didn’t is that he is actually pitching for a spot that could very well be his if he can prove ready. Worley was a September call-up, Cloyd might as well have been and both Pettibone and Bastardo made their not quite auspicious debuts as injury replacements. They were inserted into pitching staffs that included the likes of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, the list goes on. The starting five was basically set.
But this season, the rotation is a mess. It is comprised of has-beens and never-weres, bargain bin basement pitchers who are simply a body to fill out the staff and guys like Hamels and Aaron Harang who are likely to be gone sooner rather than later. If ever there was a time for a young guy like Morgan, who was rated the organization’s sixth best prospect and second best pitching prospect in 2013, before a rotator cuff injury derailed his progress, it would be now.
That said, this was just one start. It’s okay to be excited about the outcome, I know I am, but at the same time, let’s not jump the gun. Morgan has good stuff and if healthy and if ready, he projects to be a guy who can fit into a rotation in the top three range. And with the way the team’s pitching has been this year, he’ll get the chance. What he does with that chance, just like Bastardo, Pettibone, Cloyd and Worley before, is completely up to him.
Hopefully, unlike those forgettable four however, he makes the most of it.