PHILADELPHIA -- Gavin Floyd didn't expect to be called up this September, let alone thrust into the National League Wild Card playoff race. But that's where the young right-hander will find himself Tuesday, when he starts against the NL East-leading Braves. Floyd made the Phillies out of Spring Training and dominated the Cardinals in his first start of the season. He unraveled from there, as followed up a rough start with two subpar relief outings and was returned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre by the end of April.
Floyd found more troubles back at Scranton, giving up 20 runs on 30 hits in 18 2/3 innings while losing his first four starts. He eventually fixed some of the control troubles that had plagued him this season, striking out 97 and walking 66 in 137 innings. Some personal instruction from former Phillies pitching coach Johnny Podres, who has a unique way of communicating, helped. "Pods simplified everything," Floyd said. "He showed me things and I was like, 'Are you serious?' It was great. I started trusting my stuff, and my abilities, and things started getting better." Floyd found some success in his most recent start, when he filled in for Rob Tejeda against the Nationals on Sept. 4. He allowed three runs in six innings. "In Washington, he started the game aggressive," said manager Charlie Manuel. "Then when he hit [Vinny] Castilla, it seemed like that shook him up and that's when [Brian] Schneider hit the home run. The key for him is locating his fastball and throwing on the corners. "He showed us in St. Louis that he can pitch a big game in the Major Leagues. That wasn't luck, because he was hitting spots that day and [making] quality pitches." E-A-G-L-E-S: Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Philadelphia's NFL team was set to begin its regular season Monday night. Would Manuel expect few supporters at Citizens Bank Park because of the rematch of last year's NFC Championship game? "I hope they show up [at Citizens Bank Park]," Manuel said. "There's lots of ways you can keep up with scores. They can listen to it on the radio, whatever. There's lots of ways to follow it, unless they want to watch it on TV." While Manuel acknowledged that baseball might be second to football in Philadelphia, his team can garner support the old-fashioned way -- by winning. "If we win tonight, that's big," Manuel said. "Tonight's big and tomorrow's big. That will keep fan interest up. They want to see if we can win or are we going to disappoint them. It's up to us to show them. You've got to win to get the fans." Manuel then compared the rabid Philadelphia fans to those in Cleveland. "They're similar," he said. "The only difference I see is they curse more here." Off the street: It's a well-known baseball axiom that playoff runs require contributions from more than just the 25 players who head north in Spring Training. Manuel's 2001 Indians team was no exception. "We were getting guys from off the street to play," said Manuel. One particular player -- a member of Manuel's 2000 Cleveland team that fell short of the postseason -- provided only an amusing anecdote. "We had one guy who came in, a lefty," Manuel said. "I can't think of his last name. I think I called him Bill and his name was Mike." One day Mike gave up a home run, and corrected Manuel on his first name. "I told him [his first name] didn't make any difference," Manuel said. "The ball landed up on the second deck. He didn't like that. I wouldn't either, if I had been him. I didn't have anything else to say." Through some crack research, that southpaw is believed to be Mike Mohler, who pitched one inning that season. He allowed one hit, the aforementioned home run. Quotable: "I'll give him a rest -- this winter." Manuel, on possibly giving second baseman Chase Utley a breather. Utley is hitting .182 this month Flipping out: Major League Baseball conducted six coin tosses Monday to determine the sites for potential one-game playoffs. Should Philadelphia tie either Florida or Houston for the NL Wild Card at the end of the season, the tiebreaker will be played at Citizens Bank Park. If the Phils are tied with the Nationals, the game will be played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. That will make for an easy travel day, since Philadelphia ends the regular season there. Philling in: Manuel believes that Tejeda and Vicente Padilla will pitch again this season. Tejeda came out all right from Sunday's throwing session, and Manuel said he will most likely be used out of the bullpen. Padilla won't make his next start, scheduled for Saturday. Coming up: Floyd, who will oppose Atlanta's John Thomson on Tuesday, will make his second start since being recalled.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.