And he handled it perfectly. Literally.
Cloyd was supposed to begin the season with the Phillies' Double-A affiliate in Reading, but he was called up to Triple-A to make an emergency start on Opening Day. Facing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the 25-year-old right-hander threw six perfect innings, striking out eight.
And even though Cloyd returned to Reading following that outing, he quickly earned a full-time promotion back to the IronPigs. He's continued his success, earning a spot among the International League's top pitchers.
"They told me the night before [my first start here] that I would be here for only one start," Cloyd said. "But to get up here and have that kind of success made me want to work hard [at Reading], so I could get back up here and continue this success."
Cloyd dominated in four Eastern League starts, going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 20 strikeouts against only three walks in 25 innings. So the Phillies promoted him to Lehigh Valley on May 5, and the Nebraska native has gone 7-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 11 starts for the IronPigs.
"I was pitching pretty well in Double-A, so all I tried to do when I came up here was to keep that going," Cloyd said. "Up here, you face more veteran hitters who are going to pick out your mistakes. For me, it's all about limiting the mistakes I make."
Cloyd ranks second in the league in ERA. What's more, he has allowed only 67 baserunners (via hits, walks or hit batters) over 70 2/3 innings, giving him a IL-best ratio of 8.53 baserunners per nine innings.
"He's shown a lot of composure for a guy who hasn't pitched at this level before this year," Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's very competitive out there with the way he attacks hitters. And when his control is really on, he can make it tough on hitters with his sinking fastball and his cut fastball."
How tough? IL foes are hitting just .205 against Cloyd, the third-lowest mark among starters around the league.
"I learned the cut fastball about two years ago when I was in the bullpen in High-A [Clearwater]," Cloyd said. "My fastball was cutting naturally, so we worked to see if we could turn it into a real cutter, and we did.
"To mix that in with the four-seam [fastball], the changeup and slider -- and having the confidence to throw it to either side of the plate, at any point in the count -- really helps me a lot."
Cloyd has allowed three earned runs or fewer while lasting at least six innings in all but two of his 11 starts for the IronPigs. But Sandberg said the success of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound hurler is about more than just throwing strikes.
"His ability to throw strikes [is important], but also he has the ability to work on the inside of the plate to both right-handed and left-handed hitters," Sandberg said. "He's had a couple of games where he didn't have good command, but he still had good enough stuff to give us a quality start.
"His cut fastball is very deceptive because it can have different breaks. He varies that pitch, and his ability to throw to both sides of the plate, he can be tough to handle for hitters."
Lavarnway heats up: Pawtucket C Ryan Lavarnway had a respectable .268 average with three homers and 17 RBIs on June 1. This month, however, he's been red-hot, batting .406 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 16 games. Lavarnway begins the week with a six-game hitting streak that has helped raise his numbers to .310 with seven homers and 34 RBIs.
Surprising streak: Toledo LHP Adam Wilk has a 3-7 record that doesn't reflect how well he's pitched this season. After winning his first two starts, Wilk went eight starts without one, even though five of them were quality starts. The southpaw, who snapped his losing streak by beating Lehigh Valley on June 19, has a 3.44 ERA, a 2.16 opponents' batting average (fifth-best among IL starters) and a ratio of 8.59 baserunners per nine innings that ranks second in the league.
Speaking of streaks: A number of IL teams seem to be riding streaks, both good and bad. Among the hottest teams at the start of the week are Indianapolis, which has won seven in a row to take command of the West Division; Syracuse, which has won six consecutive games to move over the .500 mark; and Louisville, which has won six straight after a dreadful start. Among the IL teams that have floundered recently are Gwinnett, whose eight straight losses have pushed them six games behind Charlotte in the South; Pawtucket, which has lost six in a row and is battling to stay atop the North Division; and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which also has lost six straight to fall near the .500 mark. Buffalo has dropped four in a row to fall back to break-even, while Toledo has lost four consecutive games and eight of 10 and is in danger of being passed by Louisville in the West.
He said it: "It's contagious. On the road trip, (Stephen) Vogt and (Brandon) Allen both got hot and now everybody is following them. It's fun to watch." -- Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo to the Durham Herald-Sun on June 23. Vogt is hitting .388 this month, while Allen has a .419 average, two homers, 10 RBIs and 10 runs scored in his first 10 games with the Bulls. The offense has been a key component during a hot streak that has seen Durham win nine of 13 games.