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Phils' Simon rebounds, helps blank Sags

Peoria sinkerballer, traded for Thome, works three scoreless frames in win

Kyle Simon remembers the night that changed his career. It was a late June afternoon in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the right-hander out of Arizona was getting suited up for another start.

"Coach called us into his office a few hours before the game, and he said, 'Don't get dressed, don't do anything.' The first thing that popped into my head was, I was suspended. And I'm thinking, I don't even know what I did."

Simon wouldn't pitch for Class A Advanced Frederick again. Instead, he got in his car and began an eight-hour drive from North Carolina to Maryland. Jim Thome, a lock to enter Cooperstown, had been traded to Baltimore, and the Phillies acquired a pair of Minor Leaguers from the playoff-bound O's.

"It was kind of crazy," Simon said. "I was supposed to start that day against Winston-Salem. I got a call from one of the head Orioles farm directors, he thanked me for my time. The next call was from the Phillies. The next day I had to drive from North Carolina to Maryland -- eight hours -- and then from Maryland to Pennsylvania, to Reading, and I pitched that night. Not much sleep."

So goes the glamorous life of a Minor Leaguer. On Monday, Simon was on the mound again, this time for Peoria in Arizona, facing Mets outfield prospect Darrell Ceciliani with a runner on first base. A sinkerballer, Simon worked his magic and got a double play to escape the second inning.

"I've been doing very well for the Phillies," Simon said. "I'm very excited and I'm glad I've got the opportunity."

Simon worked three scoreless frames and struck out three to earn his first Arizona Fall League win as Peoria shut out Surprise, 3-0, on Monday. The performance was a relief for the 2011 fourth-rounder, who got knocked around in his AFL debut on Oct. 12.

"My sinker was really working, I was pounding the zone and getting groundouts, that's what happened," he said. "It's the MLB zone, so I'm not gonna get the corners or anything. But I'm basically throwing it and letting them hit it, get those ground balls."

Simon struck out two in the third, stranding a runner for his final inning. It was his third start for Peoria, but he said the Phillies envision him working as a reliever in the future.

"[The double play] was good. We have a fairly decent defense ... it's fun to watch them work," he said. "I kinda feel good, I have that relief mentality. I've been a reliever for the Phillies so far, so I'm going to stick with that role and I'm getting used to attacking and getting it done for our team, getting us into a position to win."

San Diego's Jeudy Valdez helped take care of the offense, going 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs and Zach Collier (Phillies) knocked home another run for Peoria.

For Simon, who allowed eight runs in his AFL debut, it was another chance to adjust to a new league. He's allowed just one run in his last six frames after his debut, in which he was knocked out after recording just one out. His mission in Arizona, he said, is to refine his slider and develop it as an out pitch.

"I just wasn't pounding the low zone. As a sinkerball pitcher, if you're not throwing it low, you'll get hit," he said. "They caught a few breaks, and that was the first live hitting I'd faced since leaving Double-A, so to be throwing again against the best hitters in the Minors, it's one of those outings. You move past it and get it done the next outing."

Simon, who began the season with Frederick, saw time with the Phillies at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading. In total, he finished the season with a 6-8 record and a 3.04 ERA in 112 1/3 innings.

He's happy to be with the Phillies, though.

"They're both great organizations to be with, but I feel a little more comfortable with the Phillies," he said. "They have a plan and go after it and execute the plan, and I'm ready to get it done for them and get it done in Spring Training."

Boone Whiting (Cardinals) took the loss for Surprise after allowing two runs on five hits and a walk over four innings.

Six Peoria relievers followed Simon and combined to hold the Saguaros to a pair of hits over the final six frames, with Kevin Quackenbush (Padres) earning the save.

Danny Wild is an editor for
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