The 2005 season was the worst -- and longest -- of Gavin Floyd’s career. What the former No. 1 prospect needs is time to recover ... and a little slack.
Turning 23 less than a week ago, Gavin Floyd must feel ten years older after a dubious season the best pichers in baseball would never see spread out over a career.
Thought to have a shot at becoming a fixture in the starting rotation by mid-season, the young right-hander’s progress came to a grinding halt after a sudden move to the bullpen in late April was met with catastrophic results.
The move followed one promising start against the Cards on Apr. 9 (7 innings, 1 earned run), but also a rough go against the Braves on Apr. 15 (3 1-3 innings, 8 earned runs). Following three doomed attempts in bullpen, the Phillies conceded their mistake and sent the 6-4 kid back into the oven to cook. The baseball season had only just begun, but Floyd's big-league rendezvous had ended, and it wasn't even May.
The struggles continued in Triple-A, prompting the Phillies to call in Johnny Podres to mentor their former first-round pick. The problems figured to be both mental and physical. Hitters came to expect his famous breaking ball, which didn’t have the same snap or control, and would sit on his fastball, which wasn’t as sharp. It was believed Floyd would melt down too soon when things didn’t go his way -- likely to be the first time in his entire baseball life when he wasn’t in control.
A few scattered starts late in the season gave the Phillies hope, and the team brought him back when rosters were expanded in September. Met with skepticism, following a less than impressive 6.16 ERA in Scranton, the Phillies were forced to use him in two consecutive starts during the stretch run. The best was a six-inning affair against the Nationals, when he was able to shake off early problems with the curve to hold the Nats to three runs. But when it was all said and done, Floyd gouged an irrecoverable black mark on what figured to be his breakthrough year: a 10.04 ERA in 24 innings, scrambled confidence and command, and instant removal from all the top prospect lists.
Pitching this offseason in Puerto Rico, Floyd went 1-1 with an uplifting 3.89 ERA, but no one really knew how those outings unfolded until a report in Baseball America.
"Up and down," general manager Pat Gillick told Jim Salisbury, writing for BA, only to be repeated by assistant GM Mike Arbuckle. "Overall, his performance was up and down. At times he showed a more consistent delivery and a better breaking ball. But we still saw some inconsistency from outing to outing."
Ending his season only weeks ago, it’s a lot of ball for any athlete, especially a pitcher, but it must have felt like Chinese water torture for Floyd, whose career has suddenly hit a wall. Adding insult to injury, the same people who though he could develop into a pitching savior just one year ago have already discarded him like yesterday’s news. Speaking at a banquet a few weeks back, John Kruk said Floyd will never develop into a front-line starter.
"He is what he is: A back of the rotation guy," Kruk told the Reading Eagle. "He'll never be a No. 1 guy. He doesn't have the stuff for it."
It’s harsh criticism for a pitcher this young, but if Floyd could develop even into a back of the rotation guy, someone better than Ryan Franklin, the Phillies would consider themselves fortunate. Not every pitcher can be Roger Clemens, and not many of them even become Cory Lidle.
Still, it’s worth a hard look at whether Floyd can even develop into a No. 4 or 5. This isn’t the Ed Wade era, and nobody should be untouchable. If only pitchers could be red-shirted the way quarterbacks are in college football, Floyd could have an entire season to rest and recover. At present, he doesn't figure into any plan for the 2006 season, and has been mentioned most among fans as possible trade bait.
But rather than listen to Krukker prognosticate the future of a pitching prospect, it’s better to monitor his situation one step at a time, the way other, less-celebrated 23-year-olds are guided to the majors.
"I think he needs to go home and clear his head and come to spring training ready to go." Arbuckle told Salisbury. "When you’ve struggled, I’m not sure some time off isn’t as valuable as anything."
Link: "Hope for Gavin: Mike Drago remembers Floyd’s 2004 season"