The Phillies have chosen a suitable spot for Orion Kerkering’s potential major league debut — the top of the eighth inning of a save against the Mets on Sunday night.
One, two, three, Kerkering ran through the bottom of the Mets lineup, striking out Omar Narvaez on a ground ball to third before Brett Batty and Rafael Ortega swung.
The first K was on a back-foot slider to the left-handed Batty, who swung over and around. Kerkering’s slider was viewed as one of the best in the minors, and because it’s paired with a 98-99 mph fastball, you can see why the 22-year-old has dominated this season, earning four promotions in less than six months .
He pitched in 50 total games across five levels, 44 of which were scoreless, with a 1.48 ERA, 81 strikeouts, and 12 walks.
“We knew things were electric and they really are,” manager Rob Thompson said. “The slider is his court, but you can’t sleep on the fastball either because it’s so good. The only thing guys come here with is how are they going to handle this environment? How are they going to handle the third set, 40,000 people in the stands, the passion in the city, and it seemed Like he wasn’t even sweating there.
“Those are the reports, but you don’t know it until you get here, and it was really something.”
Kerkering is now in a very interesting place, as he is in a position to help the Phillies into the playoffs as a starter. Barring disaster, why wouldn’t he be on the playoff list? He already has a big league arsenal and is on a roll. The decision could be up to Kerkering, Yunior Marti, or Dylan Coffey.
“Just keep doing what I’m doing because you never know what’s going to happen,” Kerkering said. “Everyone says I have big-league stuff, so keep believing in it and believing in yourself.”
Kerkering had “seven or eight” family and friends in attendance at Citizens Bank Park for an unforgettable night. His father spent the entire top of the eighth inning crying proud papa tears.
“Being here in Philadelphia is probably one of the best feelings ever,” Kerkering said. “I had to hug him and take pictures. It was a great moment, it was a real moment. I heard everyone was crying. Great for TV, so I can’t complain.”
All five pitches Kerkering threw to retire Narvaez were sliders. He threw 12 pitches in total — 10 sliders and a pair of 99 mph fastballs. He said this is nothing new, and that throughout 2023, he has been mostly throwing sliders while mixing in the high 90s heater.
Kerkering said as soon as he heard his name announced at a major league stadium and the roar of the crowd, his nerves snapped away.
However, he was surprised by how enthusiastic the crowd of more than 41,000 people was for his debut in Philadelphia.
“With how loud the fans were, I didn’t expect that they would cheer so loud or be so ready and excited for me,” he said. “Everyone has confidence in me and is ready to go. I couldn’t be more blessed.”
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