|Tyler Gilbert, image- Jay Floyd|
Making his debut at the Triple-A level on Thursday night at Lehigh Valley's Coca-Cola Park, the 24-year-old struggled to find the strike zone. Entering a game in which his team already trailed by two runs, Gilbert issued a four-pitch walk to the first batter he faced, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Tyler Wade. Two singles followed, an inherited runner scored, as did Wade, to give the RailRiders a four-run lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
"I didn't feel like my legs were underneath me," Gilbert shared following the 6-3 IronPigs loss that gave S/W-B a split in the four-game set. "I was a little nervous and kind of had a hard time finding the zone and ended up leaving balls over the plate that these guys can easily hit."
In the following frame, Gilbert, the Phillies' 6th round draft selection in 2015 out of USC, retired the side in order.
Proving that he could settle in and execute his duties despite some hurdles in his path was the lasting memory that Gilbert will choose to hold onto from his initial IronPigs outing.
"I kind of settled in that next inning and didn't feel as nervous. I kind of just felt like I was going to go back to my comfort zone," Gilbert stated.
A strong first half of the season with Double-A Reading earned the California native a shot at pitching in the International League. In 23 relief appearances this year for the Fightin Phils Gilbert tallied a 4-1 record with two saves, a 2.86 ERA and a 10.6 K/9 mark in the Eastern League.
Gilbert, who is listed at six-foot-three, 190 pounds, credits a new addition to his pitch repertoire with his standout efforts in 2018. The cutter was taught to him late last season by right-hander Seth McGarry, who came to the Phillies organization from the Pirates in a trade that sent Joaquin Benoit to Pittsburgh. Gilbert has refined the offering with coaches in the time since then in order to make it a true weapon. That cutter rounds out his four-pitch menu along with a straight fastball, a curve ball and change up.
After opening his professional career as a starting pitcher, Gilbert easily made the transition to pitching out of the bullpen last year with Class A Advanced Clearwater. In 34 relief outings, he notched a 2.90 ERA and struck out 52 while walking just 15 over 59 innings.
Residing now just one step away from the big leagues, Gilbert isn't the type to look too far ahead. He'll remain focused on doing his job as an IronPig and avoid the distraction of what could be in his future if he can take that final step toward the top level of the sport.
"I just want to focus on what I can do to help this team win and keep everyone in close games. Obviously, I'm knocking on the door (to the big leagues), but I'm trying to be successful at this level and take one thing at a time."