Nick Pivetta is not thrilled about bullpen assignment but he’ll suck it up for the team

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Nick Pivetta is not thrilled about bullpen assignment but he’ll suck it up for the team

PITTSBURGH — Nick Pivetta is going to the bullpen and though he accepts the move, he doesn’t seem particularly thrilled about it. That much was clear by the series of curt responses he offered to reporters’ questions before Friday night’s game against the Pirates.

“They had their explanation and I’m in the bullpen,” he said. “That’s all I have to say.

“It’s their decision. I’m here to support the 25 guys in this room and do the best I can to win baseball games for this team, for the players in this room.”

Pivetta was moved to the bullpen to accommodate Drew Smyly. The Phillies have an agreement to sign the free-agent left-hander, pending the outcome of a review of medicals that was still ongoing late Friday afternoon.

The deal is expected to get finalized. In fact, manager Gabe Kapler spoke as if it was a slam dunk and Smyly was said to already be in Pittsburgh waiting to officially sign.

Kapler said Smyly would start Sunday against the Pirates. That start was scheduled to go to Vince Velasquez. It had been widely assumed that Velasquez would go back to the bullpen, where he showed some flashes of success in late May and June. But Kapler said Velasquez would stay in the rotation for now and start Wednesday in Detroit. Pivetta was to be available in relief Friday night.

“Yes,” Pivetta said when asked if he was surprised by the move.

Only one of his 72 major-league appearances has been in relief. That came last year against Washington in a 13-inning game. He blew away the Nationals hitters for one inning with 19 pitches, 11 of which were strikes. He hit 98 mph on the gun. The performance still resonates with some in the organization.

Will moving to the bullpen be a difficult adjustment for Pivetta?

“I’m a pitcher,” he said. “Learn how to adapt quickly.

“I’ve always wanted to be a starter. That’s who I am, but like I said there are 25 men in this room and I’m playing for them, not for myself. I’m playing for these guys in this room because we want to hold the World Series trophy at the end of the year and I’m focused on helping these men compete and win baseball games.”

It has been a disappointing season for Pivetta. He came out of spring training as everyone’s pick to click this season and was awarded with the second start of the season. He made four starts, was sent to Triple A, returned with some success, but has recently struggled again. He has a 5.74 ERA in 13 starts. He is walking 3.3 batters per nine innings, up from 2.8 last year, and striking out just 7.6 per nine, down from 10.3 last year.

Smyly, who missed the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, had a 8.42 ERA in 51 1/3 innings with Texas earlier this season. The Rangers released him and he spent time with Milwaukee’s Triple A team before asking for his release on Thursday. The pitching-needy Phillies quickly pursued him not as a sure-thing contributor but more as a take-a-chance-and-see-what-happens guy. The Phils have little financial risk as Smyly is making the pro-rated major-league minimum of $550,000.

Kapler explained the Phils’ decision to send Pivetta to the bullpen instead of Velasquez.

“The first (reason) is I think Vince has made some strides in the rotation recently,” Kapler said. “The second is we have a pretty good sample of both Nick and Vince in the starting rotation and we had a little look at what Vince looks like out of the bullpen. What we don’t have is a real look at how Nick looks in the bullpen. We are hurting for right-handed leverage arms right now in the ‘pen and I’m not saying we’re prioritizing what’s happening in the bullpen, but all things considered, we’re looking at it from every angle, and it looked like the right decision for the Phillies and both pitchers individually.

“I think a good precedent is probably what happened with Vince. Vince was in the bullpen for a little bit and it turned out that we needed him in the rotation. He popped back in the rotation. We’ll see how Nick looks out of the bullpen and we’ll see how Vince continues to develop in the rotation. We’ll see how Smyly looks and we’ll make decisions when they’re appropriate.”

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Phillies Talk podcast: Shane Victorino joins to talk some ball


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

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Andrew McCutchen taking his hacks, taking virus seriously and getting a glimpse of retired life

Andrew McCutchen taking his hacks, taking virus seriously and getting a glimpse of retired life

Around 11 a.m. Thursday, Andrew McCutchen wanted to go take some hacks. He's not getting work in seven days a week like he was during spring training — no sense in overdoing it right now — but is still working out five times a week and those are the only five times he leaves the house. 

McCutchen is in Florida with his wife Maria and their two young sons. The family is taking the stay-at-home guidelines seriously. He's the only one leaving the house and he keeps hand sanitizer, gloves and a mask on him. 

"I've taken it as seriously as possible," McCutchen said during a phone conversation Thursday.

"Realizing I have a family back home so I don't want to jeopardize their lives at all because this thing is serious. It's taking all the measures and steps and caution that I can when I'm away for a couple hours. That's kind of where I am. It's around, it's real and you've got to treat it that way."

It, of course, is coronavirus, which has practically shut down the entire country and has left each pro sports league's 2020 schedule in jeopardy. 

This has been a humbling experience for millions upon millions of people. We are all largely in the same boat — you, me, Bryce Harper, LeBron. We all have to stay in the house, we're all bored at times, stir crazy at times, depressed at times, wondering when this will pass.

MLB last week worked out key issues pertaining to 2020 pay and service time in the event of a canceled season. With those details finalized, there isn't a ton of baseball talk going on between players at the moment.

"Baseball is kind of on the backburner. We're all dealing with real-life problems," McCutchen said. "There's just some things in life going on that we're putting ahead of that, putting in front of that. I'm just doing my best, as far as getting myself ready physically. But at the same time, realizing that I've got a family at home and they depend on me to be there to provide and I know there's just so many other people going through things that are much worse. 

"Baseball-wise, there's not that much to talk about, there's more to talk about with the everyday things going on and the drastic changes in the world."

As we search for any silver lining to this heartbreaking situation, one could be that it resets some of us, reminds us of what is truly important and how much the loved ones we can't see right now mean to us. 

This is a much different situation than any a professional athlete has gotten used to. In a radio interview with Mike Missanelli Thursday, Phillies manager Joe Girardi remarked that "it was like going from winter to winter." 

McCutchen feels things slowing down in his mind and in his world. He's getting a lot of family time with Maria, their two-year-old son Steel and three-month-old son Armani. They're thinking of ways to keep Steel active and everyone sane during a period when outdoor activity has been drastically limited.

"I realized I'm really able to slow down and use my brain a little more than I guess I have," McCutchen said. "Just thinking about things to do with my son around the house, there's so many things to do. Like yesterday, we had chalk and were like drawing on the driveway. Just doing little things like that every day has been super helpful. But at the same time, it's kinda fun because we're able to relive our childhood and just think about that simplified life we used to have."

It's also giving McCutchen, 33, a glimpse of life after baseball.

"It kinda speeds up a little bit on you when you think about this moment," he said. "You think about how when you're retired one day how life's gonna be, it's essentially kind of what it's like. It kinda isn't, but you're not playing at all, I can kinda look at it like that. I'm not playing, I haven't played in a full year. I'm just trying to think of how it would be when I'm not playing, when I'm actually done playing. 

"It makes me realize to not take anything for granted, not take the game for granted, enjoy the game as much as you possibly can. Don't take it too seriously. The game is important but realize that you're playing a game. Only way you can play is by having fun. Just keep doing that. This thing doesn't last forever. I just miss being out there on the field with my teammates, playing in front of the fans, the roar of the crowd, thinking of all those things that you've experienced and knowing that when we're back, whenever that is, who knows when that will feel normal again because of all of this. Or when will it be? Not trying to take anything for granted. Just being grateful and thankful for the opportunities and your past in this game."

If/when the 2020 MLB season does begin, McCutchen will be ready. The Phillies won't have to play a month without him like they would have if the season began on March 26. McCutchen, who tore his ACL last June, says this is the longest he's ever gone without playing a game since he picked up a bat at five years old.

"Now I know, whenever the time comes and we're playing again, I'll be ready to go," he said. "I'm really gonna be itching to get out on the field and play but right now I just need to take care of business and take advantage of this time."

He didn't have a preference for who was set to lead off in his absence.

"I guess I didn't pay much attention to who I wanted to lead off because I'm the leadoff guy," McCutchen said. "I think we have a few guys who can do it. There's Adam Haseley of course, I think Roman Quinn was showing some spark. I think a lot of people were looking at J.T. (Realmuto) as well because he can get on base a lot and can do a lot there in the leadoff spot, but I think it'd be a little harder for him being a catcher. 

"We had a handful of guys who could do it but I guess I don't have to worry about that anymore because I'll be leading off."

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