Phillies

Will more changeups equal more fun for Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta in 2020?

Will more changeups equal more fun for Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta in 2020?

LAKELAND, Fla. — Nick Pivetta says it doesn’t matter what role he pitches in this season, that he just wants to have fun playing baseball — that’s something that was missing last season — and help the Phillies win games.
 
But deep down inside, Pivetta desires another chance to pitch in the starting rotation. That’s why he spent his off-season working on his changeup.
 
“Every day,” he said. 
 
“I need a fourth pitch to make this starting rotation,” he added. “For me to take my next step, that's the pitch I'm going to have to have.”
 
Pivetta made his spring debut in the Phillies’ exhibition opener Saturday against the Detroit Tigers. In two innings of work, he threw 35 pitches. Seven of them were changeups. He will continue to work on the pitch all spring as he competes for the fifth starter’s job against Vince Velasquez and dark horse candidate Ranger Suarez.
 
Pivetta is 18-28 with a 5.42 ERA in 71 starts for the Phillies over the last three seasons. The clock is ticking on the 27-year-old right-hander. It’s time for him to turn some of his huge potential into consistent performance. The Phillies thought they were going to get that from Pivetta last year. They awarded him with the second start of the season, but he was sent to the minors just a few weeks later. He eventually made it back to the majors and bounced between the rotation and the bullpen. Along the way, he butted heads with manager Gabe Kapler and struggled to adapt to some of the philosophies of pitching coach Chris Young. Baseball wasn’t much fun. It never is when you have a 5.38 ERA.
 
It’s a clean slate for Pivetta now. Joe Girardi is in as manager. Bryan Price is in as pitching coach. Pivetta is upbeat.
 
“I just want to have fun playing baseball,” he said after his outing Saturday. The Phillies and Tigers played to an 8-8 tie on a chilly Florida day.
 
Using a more compact delivery and shorter arm action — he said he’s simply trying to be “more efficient” — Pivetta enjoyed a 1-2-3 first inning with his fastball reaching 96 mph. He allowed two doubles, two singles and two runs in the second inning. Two of the hits were soft.
 
Girardi has said the competition for the fifth job won’t begin in earnest until the pitchers have made a couple of starts and broken in their spikes. But Girardi liked what he saw of Pivetta his first time out.
 
“His velocity was good,” Girardi said. “He used his fastball down in the zone and up in the zone well. I thought his curveball had bite to it. His slider was pretty consistent. He threw some changeups. I thought his tempo was great. To me, you can really build off that. I don’t necessarily look at the early numbers, right? He didn’t walk people. He was ahead in the count. You start doing that and your location gets better as you get more innings under your belt and you’ve got something.”
 
Girardi had watched a lot of video of Pivetta. He liked the more compact delivery.
 
“I think his fastball is going to get on people, especially as he starts to use his off-speed more," Girardi said.
 
Girardi also liked what he saw of Pivetta’s spring project, the changeup.
 
“I think it’s a weapon for him that he needs to learn how to use to right-handers and left-handers,” the manager said. “I think he’ll continue to develop it. We’ve got time to develop it down here and we’ll see how it goes.”
 
Pivetta lost confidence in his changeup last season and threw it just 1.2 percent of the time. When he landed in the bullpen, he threw mostly just fastballs and curveballs.
 
So far in camp, pitchers have raved about their dealings with Price, whose style is to have pitchers work to their strengths. 
 
Pivetta recalled his first conversation with Price this winter. The two spoke about the importance of improving the pitcher’s changeup.
 
“With Price, when I first talked to him on the phone, something that really clicked with me was just making sure the pitch is down in the zone,” Pivetta said. “Just make sure it's down. Let the pitch do its work.
 
“Bryan is really, really good. I've really enjoyed Bryan. He has a lot of really good knowledge. I look forward to continuing to get to know him more on a personal level and really dive into the knowledge he has. He has such a vast and long history in major league baseball.”
 
The Phils host Pittsburgh in Clearwater on Sunday. Aaron Nola will start. Velasquez will get the ball Monday against Baltimore.

Subscribe and rate Phillies Talk:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

More on the Phillies

A simpler approach could get Rhys Hoskins to the future slugger we envisioned

A simpler approach could get Rhys Hoskins to the future slugger we envisioned

The Phillies finally got their slugger of the future.

That’s what Phillies fans and many people around the game were thinking after Rhys Hoskins became the fastest player in MLB history to slug 18 career home runs, accomplishing the feat in 34 games. Hoskins set the mark in a win against the Miami Marlins on September 14th, 2017 and you can relive it today on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

That home run off of former Phillie Vance Worley would also be the last of Hoskins’ rookie campaign. In the two seasons that have followed since, Hoskins has hit a more-than-respectable 63 total home runs. But his slugging percentage dropped in each season since 2017, going from .618 SLG as a rookie to .454 SLG in 2019.

So, where does Hoskins go from here? It would be overly critical to question whether Hoskins will be a one-year wonder. He has posted solid, if not spectacular, power numbers since that first season. But he also hasn’t been anywhere near the conversation for best power hitters in the National League either.

Here’s a reason for optimism: As much as he said the right things, my sense is that Hoskins was negatively impacted by the launch angle, pitch-taking mindset set forth as dogma by the Gabe Kapler regime. Hoskins already possesses those tendencies naturally. Adding more thought to the equation led to plate paralysis. As walks increased, production diminished from a player that this franchise is counting upon to create runs. With Joe Girardi and hitting coach Joe Dillon at the helm, there’s reason to think we’ll see Hoskins get back to “see ball, hit ball” mode.

It also can’t hurt to have a full season under his belt with Bryce Harper. While the two have a good relationship, it couldn’t have been easy to go from leading man to best supporting actor status. That dynamic should come more comfortably for Hoskins in the seasons ahead.

Who knows what the 2020 season will look like? Or if we’ll even have a season? But my bet is that Hoskins figures it out and puts together a 40 home run season in the not-too-distant future.

Subscribe and rate Phillies Talk:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Phillies Talk podcast: Shane Victorino joins to talk some ball

victorinopodcastslide.jpg
NBCSP

Phillies Talk podcast: Shane Victorino joins to talk some ball

A special guest joined the Phillies Talk podcast Friday: former Phillies All-Star and World Series champion Shane Victorino.

• Victorino on the sports shutdown

• His love of Philly, the fans and how they embraced him

• Why Philly made such a difference in his life

• The confidence that Charlie Manuel and Gene Lamont gave him

• Shane on his famous walk-off outfield assist

• Victorino's 40-yard dash vs. Troy Polamalu

• Victorino on Bryce Harper

• His message to Phillies fans

Subscribe and rate Phillies Talk:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

More on the Phillies