Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was blunt Saturday when asked about his hopes for next season’s starting rotation.
“I think we need to upgrade,” he said.
Case in point: the quest to find an arm for Sunday. Despite saying right-hander Nick Pivetta has “got a lot of work to do, let’s put it that way,” Mackanin announced that work will come at the major league level.
Pivetta will be recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley and start Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.
“I think it boils down to who’s available,” Mackanin said.
Injuries and ineffectiveness have made putting five starters together a difficult task for some time now. Mackanin said Aaron Nola would start Monday against Atlanta and fellow righty Mark Leiter Jr. would go Tuesday against the Braves.
The lack of depth is something Mackanin hopes general manager Matt Klentak addresses in the offseason. Mackanin was then asked if he wanted big-money starters.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t discussed it with Matt.”
Pivetta was optioned to the minors after getting just four outs on Tuesday against Miami. Pitching the second game of a doubleheader when a solid start is needed to help the bullpen, Pivetta gave up six runs and seven hits. His ERA soared to 6.73 in his 19th start.
The manager believes Pivetta’s woes are part of a pattern he’s seen with his young pitchers.
“We’ve got that need to improve on fastball command, as well as secondary stuff, but primarily fastball command and that’s what it’s all about,” Mackanin said. “It could be mechanical. It could be partially upstairs and overthrowing and guiding the ball. There are a number of different things.”
Mackanin said he’s focusing on the percentages of each type of pitch that are thrown in the right spots. For example, Jake Thompson -- who was sent down after giving up five runs and two home runs in five innings Thursday against the Marlins -- missed the proper location on his fastball 18 times, Mackanin said.
One positive has been lefty reliever Adam Morgan, whom Mackanin said hit the spot with 11 of his 12 sliders on Friday against the Cubs. And Mackanin has been pleased with Leiter, although he was unsure if he was best suited long term as a reliever or a swing reliever capable of multiple roles.
Pivetta, who has allowed five or more earned runs in five of his past eight starts, will try to fix his problems while facing the defending World Series champions. Mackanin said they would announce the corresponding roster move Sunday but added that Saturday starter Ben Lively wouldn’t be sent down.
“It might be (Rhys) Hoskins,” Mackanin said, drawing chuckles as he mentioned his hot rookie slugger. “He can’t keep doing that, can he?”