Phillies’ Orion Kerkering shines in MLB debut – NBC Sports Philadelphia

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The Phillies picked a decent-sized spot for relief prospect Orion Kerkering’s major-league debut — the top of the eighth inning of a save situation against the Mets Sunday night.

One, two, three, Kerkering went through the bottom of the Mets’ lineup, retiring Omar Narvaez on a groundball to third before striking out Brett Baty and Rafael Ortega swinging.

The first K was on a back-foot slider to the left-handed-hitting Baty, who swung over and around it. 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 was so dominant this season, earning four promotions in less than six months.

He’s made 50 appearances in total across five levels and 44 have been scoreless, with a 1.48 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 12 walks.

“We knew the stuff was electric and it really is,” manager Rob Thomson said. “The slider’s his pitch but you can’t fall asleep on the fastball either because it’s pretty darn good. The only thing with guys coming up here is how are they going to handle this environment? How are they going to handle the third deck, 40,000 people in the stands, the passion in the city? And he looked like he wasn’t even sweating out there.

“Those are the reports, but you don’t know until they get here, and he was really something.”

Kerkering is now in a very interesting spot, positioned to help the Phillies’ bullpen in the playoffs as a rookie. Barring a catastrophe, why wouldn’t he be on the playoff roster? He already has a big-league arsenal and is on a roll. The decision may come down to Kerkering, Yunior Marte or Dylan Covey.

“Just keep doing me because you never know what’s going to happen,” Kerkering said. “Everyone’s saying I’ve got big-league stuff so just keep trusting it and believing in yourself.”

Kerkering had “seven or eight” family members and friends in attendance at Citizens Bank Park for the unforgettable night. His father spent the entire top of the eighth inning crying proud papa tears.

“Being here in Philly, probably one of the best feelings ever,” Kerkering said. “Got to hug him and take pictures. It was an awesome moment, it was a real moment. I heard everyone was crying. Great for TV, so 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 fastballs at 99 mph. He said that was nothing new, that throughout 2023, he’s been throwing mostly sliders while mixing in a high-90s heater.

Once he was past hearing his name announced in a big-league stadium and the roar of the crowd, the nerves washed away, Kerkering said.

He was surprised, however, by just how enthusiastic the crowd of more than 41,000 was for his first appearance in Philly.

“Just how loud the fans were, I wouldn’t have figured they’d be cheering as loud or be as ready and excited for me,” he said. “Everyone’s trusting me and ready to go, I can’t be blessed more.”

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