One of the good things about a new manager’s first spring training is the hope that a fresh approach will be all a struggling player needs to turn their career around. It’s a narrative as old as whippin’ the ball around the horn.
With the season now on hold due to pandemic intervention, there’s even more time to marinate over which players the new Joe Girardi regime will be able to set on a course toward improvement.
There are, unfortunately from a Phillies perspective, a number of candidates from which to select. That said, there is one player that stands head and shoulders above the rest, literally and figuratively. That would be the 6-foot-5 right handed flame thrower, Nick Pivetta.
A native of Victoria, British Columba, Pivetta has been short on victories and long on frustrating performances during parts of three seasons with the Phillies. The consternation stems from the occasional glimpses of his breathtaking potential.
Take for instance his performance from June 2018 when he struck out 13 Cardinals over 7-and-a-third innings while allowing just two runs. The Phillies would win that game in 10 innings thanks to an Aaron Altherr 2-run walk-off double. You can relive it again tonight on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Rewatching this game, it’s impossible not to be smitten with Pivetta’s raw ability. The Cardinals always seem to boast an above-average lineup and this night was no exception. But Pivetta controlled the zone, throwing 80 strikes over 108 pitches. His fastball popped all evening (95.8 MPH avg) and the curveball torpedoed through the zone. In all, Pivetta coaxed 21 swings and misses from St. Louis hitters.
Pivetta’s metaphorical penthouse goes higher than just about any pitcher in the sport. Yet, most of his career has been spent lingering closer to the lobby. Most organizations would part ways with a pitcher posting a 19-30 career record with a 5.34 ERA. But it’s tough to shake the memory of a night like that one Cardinals.
So that’s where Girardi and veteran pitching coach Bryan Price step to the forefront. That duo, albeit primarily Price, will need to improve Pivetta’s ability to repeat his mechanics. A feat much easier said than done with a pitcher of his size. From a mindset standpoint, a single failure can no longer transfer to the next hitter. That’s a problem that has consistently haunted Pivetta during his 3-year career.
Who knows if Pivetta will fulfill his promise? The early spring results were not promising (7 ER in 7.2 IP). But it’s a project worth pursuing because the Phillies’ aspirations climb much higher if Pivetta nears his ceiling.