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Phenomenology: Phillies at Reds, May 12-14, 2006

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May 12: Phillies 8, Reds 4 WP: Madson (4-1) LP: Ramirez (1-3) S: Gordon (11)
May 13: Phillies 2, Reds 0 WP: Lieber (3-4) LP: Williams (2-3) S: Gordon (12)
May 14: Phillies 2, Reds 1 (12) WP: Geary (1-0) LP: Hammond (0-1) S: Gordon (13)

For more coverage of the Reds, please visit our SBN sister site at Red Reporter

HE is here. After wreaking devastation on minor-league hitters to the tune of 14-4, a 1.43 ERA and 275 strikeouts in 35 starts, Cole Hamels makes his major-league bow in Friday night's game at Cincinnati. The ballyhooed pitching prospect has a tall order against the Reds, who lead the National League with 191 runs and an .812 team OPS in 35 games.

A game up on St. Louis in the suddenly competitive NL Central, the Reds are also coming off their best win of the season: a 5-4 triumph in 11 innings over Washington. After the Nats broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the top of the 11th, Cincinnati roared back with four in the home half of the inning, winning it on a three-run walkoff home run by just-activated Ken Griffey Jr. With Griffey's return to action, the Reds boast four regulars with OPS marks above .900: Adam Dunn (.981), Austin Kearns (.952), Griffey (.928), and Edwin Encarnacion (.920). Middle infielders Brandon Phillips (.803) and Felipe Lopez (.792) aren't far behind.

But back to Hamels. When he takes his big-league bow tonight, he'll be trying to follow in the footsteps of the Phils' last three pitching prodigies: Gavin Floyd, Brett Myers and Randy Wolf.

  • Floyd's first big-league start came on Sept. 3, 2004, at Citizens Bank Park against the Mets. He threw a gem, allowing just a solo home run to former Phil Eric Valent in seven innings to record his first career win.

  • Myers, whose July 2002 debut featured a matchup against Cubs ace Mark Prior, was even better: eight innings, two hits, five strikeouts and the win in a 4-2 Phils victory. It was his longest start of the season for the big-league club.

  • Wolf, like Hamels a highly touted lefty, took his major league bow on June 11, 1999, in an interleague contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. Wolf allowed six hits and three walks, but surrendered just a run in 5 2/3 innings while striking out six. He too won his debut.

Of course, the all-time Phillies standard for first starts was set by Marty Bystrom at Shea Stadium on September 10, 1980. With the Phils a half-game behind division leader Montreal, the 22 year-old right-hander fired a five-hit complete-game shutout against the Mets. Bystrom (whose major-league debut had come three days earlier with a scoreless inning of relief against the Dodgers) would go on to win his next four starts, helping the Phils to edge the Expos and go on to their only World Championship.

Those are big shoes to fill. But as Todd Zolecki noted the other day, no Phils pitching prospect--hell, no big-time pitcher of any club in the last couple decades--has ever come close to dominating in the minors the way Hamels has. Tonight we begin to see if he can sustain that performance at the highest level.