Nick Pivetta's mistakes costly in Phillies' rain-shortened loss to Mets

Nick Pivetta's mistakes costly in Phillies' rain-shortened loss to Mets


NEW YORK — The conditions, rainy and blustery, were miserable for baseball, but they really weren't an issue for Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta. He was raised in Victoria, British Columbia so ...
"I grew up in this stuff," the 24-year-old, rookie right-hander said. "It didn't affect me."
What affected him was something that has plagued a cast of young Phillies pitchers this season — too many pitches over the middle of the plate.
"He threw strikes but not quality strikes," manager Pete Mackanin said after his team's 6-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday night (see observations). "Too many bad pitches."
The game was called in the bottom of the sixth inning after a 57-minute rain delay.
Some might have called it a mercy killing, but Mackanin wouldn't go there. He had just seen his team rally for three runs in the top of the sixth, two on a laser-beam home run by rookie Nick Williams, his ninth of the season, to cut the Mets' early lead in half, and would like to have seen what his club could have done in the late innings. But with no end to the bad weather in sight, and two also-rans on the field, the umpires didn't have much urgency to hang around into the wee hours of the morning to go the full nine.
"It's a shame we got banged because we started mounting a comeback," Mackanin said. "But it is what it is."
The Mets ended up taking two of three from the Phillies and have won 18 of the last 21 series between the two teams. The Mets are 37-17 against the Phils since the start of the 2015 season.
The Phils found themselves in an early hole when Pivetta was tagged for three runs in the first inning. In all, he gave up 10 hits and six runs in five innings of work. He threw 111 pitches — too many, but that's been a common bugaboo for the Phillies' young starting staff.
Pivetta made two mistake pitches in that first inning — a loopy, hanging curveball that Asdrubal Cabrera stroked for an RBI single and a middle-in fastball that Travis d'Arnaud hit for a two-run homer.
"I've got to limit mistakes," Pivetta said. "I can't miss up in the zone. When I'm ahead in the count, I can't throw a hanging breaking ball to Cabrera where he smacks it. I can't throw an inside fastball to d'Arnaud, don't miss in and he puts a good swing on it. Those mistakes are on me and I own up to those mistakes, but at the end of the day they're mistakes."
Pivetta has shown flashes of brilliance this season. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball against these same Mets on July 2. He struck out 11 Padres and 10 Cardinals in a pair of starts. And, of course, he was brilliant during his time at Triple A. There's something there. It just needs refinement. In a perfect world, Pivetta would have had more time at Triple A this season. But he was pressed into duty in the big leagues and has a 6.49 ERA in 22 starts.
It's all been a learning experience.
"I know it's frustrating, especially for the team, when I go out there and give up six runs," Pivetta said. "But I don't think it's anything to panic about. I don't want to panic because I'm young. I hate saying it, but I'm young. There's a lot of good things I can build on."
Mackanin believes Pivetta will be better for his struggles. And he believes the pitcher has big upside.
"He has an above-average fastball with good life and good movement," Mackanin said. "He has a good curveball and a pretty good slider. He's developing a changeup. But, once again, it's all about commanding those pitches. Once you get to that point where you can command your pitches, that will make you a successful pitcher."

Pivetta has four starts remaining before the end of the season. Four more chances to learn.

"I'm not going to let it beat me up," Pivetta said. "I've still got four starts until the end of the season. My plan is to go out there next time, throw a good game and hopefully build on that. That's just where I'm at right now."

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

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Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.