So far, Brody Colvin's signature moments in the Phillies' minor-league system have been an arrest outside a bar in his native Louisiana and a disappointing second full season that also included a nagging back injury.
That's probably not the preferred path to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. On the other hand, he's not traveling in unchartered territory, either.
Cole Hamels, the pitcher the Phillies just agreed to pay $15 million next season and hope to sign to a longer-term deal in the near future, had an infamous bar fight in Clearwater, Fla., during his days in the minor leagues. That did not impede his rapid ascent to the big leagues, although Hamels never really was challenged by minor-league hitters.
Colvin described his incident "as a complete misunderstanding" and said the charges against him were eventually dismissed. Now he wants to erase the memory of his 2011 at single-A Clearwater, a season in which he went 3-8 with a 4.71 ERA. He wouldn't be the first Phillies minor-leaguer to bounce back from a poor season and reappear on the radar as a top-notch, big-league prospect.
Colvin, 21, was one of 10 Phillies minor-leaguers invited to the team's prospect education program this week, and two of his teammates from last season at Clearwater made noteworthy turnarounds in 2011. Some had labeled righthander Phillippe Aumont a flop after he struggled in his first season in the Phillies system in 2010. Now, after a sensational 2011, it's entirely possible Aumont will pitch out of the Phils bullpen at some point in 2012.
Trevor May rebounded from a midseason demotion from Clearwater to Lakewood in 2010 to become the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year in 2011. Add in Vance Worley, who overcame a poor 2009 season at double-A Reading to become a key part of the big-league rotation last season, and there is no shortage of places where Colvin can go for advice.
"I would sit in my room and think, 'It really can't get worse than this,' " Colvin said of his 2011 season. "But, honestly, when I got to the ballpark I tried to take a deep breath when I walked in, and I tried to have a positive mind-set knowing that I'm going to get better every day."
He said May was the one teammate he has talked to about recovering from his poor season.
"It's definitely a big jump from low A [Lakewood] to high A [Clearwater]," Colvin said, "and they want us to excel at high A as much as we possibly can, and maybe me and him got caught up in that too much instead of just realizing it's a game and we've played it our whole lives, so just keep playing."
Colvin, who missed a month early in the season because of a sore back, did finish 2011 on a positive note, pitching 62/3 scoreless innings in his final start at Clearwater.
"My last start of the year was by far my best start," he said. "I just thought, 'This is my last start, so just go out there and pitch. Throw it all aside and pitch.' "
He followed that outing with a strong performance in the Florida Instructional League, and, after working with minor-league pitching coordinator Gorman Heimueller, he returned to his home in Louisiana with a positive perspective.
"He did pitch really well in the instructional league," said Steve Noworyta, the team's assistant director of minor-league operations. "It was the best I've seen him as far as his delivery."
Colvin was considered a much higher talent than his seventh-round draft selection in 2009, but he slipped because he had a scholarship to Louisiana State. The Phillies persuaded him to turn pro with a $900,000 signing bonus, and they still believe he's a terrific talent.
"He has one of the better arms, if not the best arm, in the organization," Noworyta said. "With that, it's about getting his command and knowing what he has to do to correct that. It seems like he's just starting to figure that out."
The Phillies must decide if he's ready to take the next step to Reading or if he should return to Clearwater to try to master that level. Colvin is hoping to make the jump to the next level along with the other members of last year's vaunted Clearwater rotation, but he's willing to accept whatever awaits him.
"I just honestly can't wait for the offseason to be over," he said.