For Will Savage, there was a lot of baseball already played by the time he was drafted by the Phillies in the 26th round of the draft. Coming into last season, Savage was one of the better touted closers in the nation, pitching for the Oklahoma Sooners. While his numbers weren't quite where a lot of scouts thought that they would be, in retrospect, it's good for the Phillies. Had Savage put up the type of numbers that many expected, he wouldn't have lasted until the 26th round.
Signing quickly, Savage started his professional career at Batavia and threw nine shutout innings out of the MuckDogs' bullpen. Opponents hit just .176 against him and the Phillies had seen enough, moving him along to Lakewood. With the BlueClaws, Savage found himself in a spot that he never imagined; a minor league pennant race in his first professional season. "I could have never envisioned being in that position," said Savage. "To be in my first season in the minors and move into that situation was great." Lakewood would go on to win the South Atlantic League Championship, with Savage being a sizeable part of their bullpen down the stretch.
"It was a great experience," recalled Savage. "It was nice too, because I sort of hit a wall mentally and physically in August, but that sort of excitement gave me my fourth or fifth wind."
When all was said and done, Savage had put up impressive numbers in his first pro season, going a combined 1-1 with 4 saves and a 2.68 ERA in his stops at Batavia and Lakewood.
Now though, the calendar turns to 2007 and Will Savage is ready for new challenges. The Phillies haven't promised Savage a spot on any particular roster, but they have told him that a job in Clearwater is his to lose. "It definitely is a goal of mine, to pitch well enough this spring that I stick in Clearwater," said Savage, who has yet to see the Phillies' complex in Florida. "Lakewood was awesome and I've heard that the stadium in Florida is nice, so I'm looking forward to it," admitted Savage.
To get ready for the upcoming season, Savage has been doing a lot of work on his legs and scapula area, something that the Phillies stress for their young pitchers. The added scapula (shoulder) work is thought to fight off potential shoulder injuries by making the joint stronger, without putting added pressure on the shoulder through added throwing. With his off-season work and simply getting stronger and fresher, Savage hopes to have put about five extra miles per hour on his fastball from where he was at the start of his last college season. "I look to be in the low-90s this season and stay there consistently. I figure I can get to 93 or maybe even 94 miles per hour at some point," believes Savage. Last season, with the extra momentum of the Lakewood pennant race, Savage was hitting 92 miles per hour on occasion with the BlueClaws after starting the year in the 88-90 mile per hour range at Oklahoma.
With a nice step up to Clearwater, Savage thinks he can hit Double-A by the end of the year and be at Triple-A in time for the inaugural season of Phillies baseball in Allentown, PA for 2008, when the Phillies move their Triple-A franchise from Ottawa to much closer to the Philadelphia area. The Phillies have had Savage and just about all of their prospects, get passports allowing them to travel to Ottawa, just in case. It's not entirely likely that Savage will need the passport this season, but he could well be a part of that inaugural team in Allentown for 2008.