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South Jersey native Jeff Singer working his way toward Phillies

The Rutgers-Camden grad, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Phillies in 2016, has overcome a difficult start to the season.

South Jersey native Jeff Singer has a 1.04 ERA since being promoted to double-A Reading June 1.
South Jersey native Jeff Singer has a 1.04 ERA since being promoted to double-A Reading June 1.Read moreYONG KIM

Greg Legg remembers the first few times he saw Jeff Singer pitch, and that's why he is so impressed with what he sees from the South Jersey native.

"He is a hell of a story," the manager of the Phillies' double-A Reading affiliate said. "Early on when I had him, I said, 'God, I've never seen this guy throw a strike.' I think the first time I saw him, I had to go get him after he threw 12 straight balls. That was two years ago, and now you have a guy whose confidence just keeps growing."

Singer, a graduate of Holy Cross High School and Rutgers-Camden, joined the Phillies as an undrafted free agent in 2016 after pitching for the now-defunct Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League the year before. He climbed quickly from rookie ball with Williamsport to low-A Lakewood, and by August, he was with Legg's high-A Clearwater squad. In his first two outings with the Threshers, he gave up three hits without recording an out. In his third outing, he recorded two outs, but also allowed four runs on four walks and a hit.

Things could get only better, and in fact, they have gotten much better. These days, Legg has high praise for Singer, a 24-year-old lefty.

"He has a fastball that is hard to pick up," Legg said. "They pick it up late because he has so much deception. He's not scared of anything. I've been real impressed. Me and [pitching coach Steve Schrenk] both said the other day that he's going to pitch in the big leagues. It's just a matter of when. I see it happening."

A scout at one of Reading's recent games agreed that Singer has a chance, provided he keeps throwing strikes.

>>READ MORE: Darick Hall and Austin Listi are blasting homers at Reading

Singer's 2018 season actually got off to a difficult start. After finishing last year at Reading, he was sent back to Clearwater for the start of this season. Seven appearances in, he had a 7.56 ERA and had allowed 14 hits, including two home runs, in 8 1/3 innings.

"After being promoted last year, you never want to be sent down, and it was a humbling experience to be back in Clearwater," Singer said. "I learned a lot and I learned what routine I needed to do to get back to Reading, and I think that has helped me so far."

Since that disastrous start, Singer has a 0.71 ERA in 17 combined games at Clearwater and Reading. He has allowed just 10 hits, struck out 27 and walked 10 in 25 1/3 innings. Opponents have hit just .120 against him in that span.

"Mentally and physically, it all clicked at one point and I just felt a lot better," Singer said.

Extra innings

Reading lefty JoJo Romero, a fourth-round pick in 2016, was 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in four April starts. He is 6-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 12 starts since, and he has gone at least six innings in nine of those 12 starts. … Reading catcher Deivi Grullon is hitting .271, and his 11 home runs are one shy of his career high. … Lehigh Valley lefthander Brandon Leibrandt landed on the disabled list this week with elbow tendinitis. … Top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez (elbow inflammation) is not likely to return to the mound at Clearwater until next month.