Phillies’ Orion Kerkering is only just getting started and soaring under the wings of veterans

Phillies promote four pitchers, including Orion Kerkering, to triple-A Lehigh Valley
Clearwater Threshers pitcher Orion Kerkering (44) delivers a pitch during an MiLB Florida State League baseball game against the Bradenton Marauders on April 8, 2023 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. Kerkering pitched one inning of a combined no-hitter, earning a hold. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP)

Less than 2 years ago, Orion Kerkering was just a draft prospect from the University of South Florida waiting to see where he might be drafted.

The rise of Phillies prospect Orion Kerkering

The Phillies selected Kerkering 152nd overall in the 5th round of the 2022 MLB First Year Player Draft. He made his professional debut with the Single-A Clearwater Threshers, allowing 3 ER in 6 IP.

In 2023, Kerkering found the fast track to the big leagues. He pitched at every professional level the Phillies had to offer, including making his MLB debut on September 24th.

“There’s no way someone would ever do that,” said Kerkering reflecting on his whirlwind 2023. “You always know how to pitch but it’s always like taking a different mindset, just trying to get better each play.”

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Matt Strahm throws during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Kerkering credits veterans like Matt Strahm and Jeff Hoffman for helping him adjust to the big-league level. “They’ve been in the league since I was in high school basically,” Kerkering said jokingly. “Those are my go-to guys. If I need to go talk about something or about advice, I go to them first before anything.”

He’s certainly adjusted quickly. So far in 2024, Kerkering has a 1.33 ERA in 20 IP. He’s striking out 4.75 batters for every walk he’s thrown. He’s sporting a 0.934 WHIP and a 305 ERA+.

“My job is to go out there and throw zeros,” said Kerkering on being ready for any situation. He knows he still has to earn his way to high-pressure situations but he’s prepared for it whether it’s this year or 5 years from now.

Even though it’s a tough job, Kerkering is having a lot of fun with the rest of the bullpen. He states that everyone in the Phillies pen is “super grounded.” “It’s just 8 guys that want to go out there and win a ballgame for this team,” said Kerkering.

Currently, the Phillies are tied with the New York Yankees for the best record in baseball. Orion Kerkering and the rest of the bullpen have been a big part of that. Time will tell what the rest of the season has in store for the young reliever.

Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP