PHILADELPHIA—One of the best Opening Day stories in baseball happened in the Phillies system. Righthander Tyler Cloyd played the lead role.
The night before he was scheduled to start the second game of an Opening Day doubleheader for Double-A Reading, Cloyd learned that he would instead be making a spot start for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Veteran righthander Dave Bush would not be able to go for the IronPigs after drawing a suspension for a spring training brushback incident.
"I was excited and shocked at the same time," the 24-year-old Cloyd said.
The unexpected promotion turned into the memory of a lifetime when Cloyd, who had never pitched above Double-A, struck out eight in six perfect innings. Lehigh Valley defeated Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 3-0 in front of 9,722.
On a tight pitch count, Cloyd left the game after 73 pitches.
"When they told me I was done, I understood," he said. "To go up there and start the season like that—it's more than I could have asked for. I was pretty happy."
Cloyd ranked the experience "right at the top" of his baseball memories. For his efforts, he earned International League pitcher of the week honors—and a ticket back to Reading.
"It wasn't a disappointment to go back," he said. "I knew it was coming. Going up there and seeing the atmosphere made me want to work harder to get back."
Cloyd might do just that. An 18th-round pick in 2008 who signed out of Bellevue, Neb., he posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 146 innings between high Class A Clearwater and Reading last season.
After his Opening Day start in Triple-A, Cloyd won his first two starts for Reading, allowing five runs in 12 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out eight.
A command guy who throws a fastball, cutter, changeup and breaking ball, Cloyd hopes that he is opening eyes.
"The goal is to pitch in the big leagues," he said. "All I can do is keep pitching and we'll see what happens."
• The Phillies signed 31-year-old infielder Mike Fontenot to a minor league deal to provide depth and play for Lehigh Valley.
• Outfielder Anthony Hewitt, a first-round pick in 2008, opened the year 1-for-12 with Clearwater after missing the first week of the season with a sore wrist.