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April 01, 2015

Looking toward future, Phillies should be cautious with Ken Giles’ back

Ruben Amaro, Jr. is finally honestly assessing his team, which can allow him to be patient with injuries

It took ‘em a while, but the Phillies finally understand what the deal is. 

They’re going to be bad this year and they’re going to be bad next year, but they might be able to turn it around shortly thereafter if they operate from a standpoint of looking ahead. Ruben Amaro, Jr. plainly spelled out the philosophy to the Daily News’ David Murphy:

"This year is more about our future than our present," the general manager said. "We've said that many times. Frankly, this sounds strange, but I'm more interested in the development of the guys in Triple A and Double A and A ball this year than I am necessarily the guys on the field. Some guys I am very key on as far as our major league club is concerned, but as far as the bulk of the organization is concerned, I'm actually more interested to see how we develop in our system."

One of the players in the big leagues that Amaro will undoubtedly focus on is Ken Giles, the 24-year-old righty reliever who turned heads as a rookie in 2014 with a fastball-slider combo that proved pretty much unhittable. Whenever Giles took the mound last season, the strong local presence on my Twitter feed would take a brief respite from directing snark at the Phillies to collectively come to the realization, “Hey, Ken Giles is filthy.” He finished with 64 strikeouts in 45.2 innings.

The front office doesn’t have to sacrifice the future for the present, because they know full well the team has no present.

Giles, who is 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA, 10 strikeouts, and 8 walks in 8.2 innings this spring, has spent March trying to build up the arm strength that allowed him to rear back and throw his fourseam fastball at an average speed of a shade under 98 miles per hour. The combination of his nasty stuff and youth make it more plausible that he’ll be on the Phillies’ next contender than probably anyone else on the roster.

Barring injury, that is. Giles exited Tuesday’s spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays after just two batters because he experienced the same tightness in his back he felt for a few days. According to the Inquirer’s Matt Breen, the reliever was initially confident he’d be on the opening day roster:

"I don't think they'll be too pushy on that because they know I'll speak the truth," Giles said. "Every day they always want to know how I'm feeling and stuff like that, but I'm not really concerned about that kind of stuff."

On Wednesday, Amaro gave an update on Giles, as well as Phillippe Aumont, who the team decided to outright after running out of minor league options:

I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on TV), but at least placing Giles on the 15-day disabled list feels like the right move here. Considering that the Phillies just put Domonic Brown on the DL to start the season in an effort to make sure the Achilles tendinitis he’s dealing with doesn’t become a lingering issue, I imagine it’s the move they’ll make as well. Each injury situation is obviously different, but like Brown, Giles is a player that could potentially be here for longer than the immediate future. The Phillies want those types of guys to receive a lot of playing time, but not while dealing with an injury.

When looking back at recent examples of injured star players’ rehab timelines in other sports, you can see that the Phillies’ dire prospects this season allows the franchise to be extremely conservative. This is a good thing. Take the Oklahoma City Thunder, who expected Kevin Durant to miss 6-8 weeks after having surgery on the Jones fracture in his right foot last October. He came back in a little bit under seven weeks, and as we’ve seen, that clearly wasn’t enough time to recover. He just underwent another surgery, will miss the playoffs, and basically has to go through the entire rehab process again.

Think about the reasons why the Thunder might have rushed Durant back early. For one, they play in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, where just making the playoffs is a chore. Fellow superstar Russell Westbrook also missed extended time early in the year, and Oklahoma City dug themselves quite a hole at 4-12. Finally, looming over everything is Durant’s free agency next offseason, which will be a terrifying prospect for everyone in that organization and entire city if the Thunder don’t win a title in the next two seasons.

Locally, the Flyers tried to chase a playoff spot and a lottery ticket for the Stanley Cup when they brought back Steve Mason from a bunch of lower-body injuries too quickly multiple times at around the New Year. Luckily for the Orange and Black, their 26-year-old goaltender made it through a grueling March workload in one piece. He’s reportedly skipping May’s World Hockey Championships (and a chance to play between the pipes for Canada) to rest his knee, though.

The Phillies aren’t worried about the playoffs this year, so Brown or Giles won’t have to play through pain. The front office doesn’t have to sacrifice the future for the present, because they know full well the team has no present. Who said Amaro and Sam Hinkie were that different?