Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler offers frank critique of Nick Pivetta as pitcher heads to Triple A

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Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler offers frank critique of Nick Pivetta as pitcher heads to Triple A

MIAMI — Nick Pivetta was clearly steamed as he emerged from manager Gabe Kapler’s office at Marlins Park late Saturday afternoon.

The 26-year-old right-hander grabbed his equipment bag and quickly began emptying the contents of his locker into it. His disappointing season had taken another sour turn with his second demotion of the season to Triple A.

Pivetta learned of the move in an apparently tense meeting with Kapler. The stunned pitcher was loath to offer details of the conversation, but Kapler, rarely one to criticize his players publicly, was unusually frank.

“It wasn’t the easiest conversation,” Kapler said. “I think he took it hard. I think Nick is a developing young man and, specifically, I think he’s still really learning 100 percent accountability.”

Kapler was asked to expound on that.

“Well, I think the most important thing a player can do in these situations is look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘What can I do better?’ And that’s what I mean by accountability.”

Kapler was pressed for an example of where he believed Pivetta lacked accountability.

“I don’t think I need to dive much deeper than I just dove,” he said. “Nick can go down to Lehigh and use 10 or 12 days to focus on getting better and focus on working on his craft. It’s fairly simple.”

Asked for his reaction to Kapler’s saying he lacked accountability, Pivetta said little.

“There are a lot of things I need to process,” he said, trying to contain his emotions. “I just have to get back to who I am and do what I need to do to stay in the big leagues.

“It’s a conversation that we had and I’ll keep it between us.”

Pivetta has become a symbol of the Phillies’ disappointing starting pitching this season. The Phillies front office and coaching staff banked on him — and others — contributing significantly, but the hard-throwing pitcher was demoted to Triple A after just four starts. (Others struggled, as well.) Pivetta made it back to the majors but was eventually demoted to the bullpen. He had a couple of stellar performances out of the bullpen but has recently struggled, notching an ERA of 6.75 in his last five appearances. Over that span, he’s allowed 13 hits and eight walks in eight innings and opponents have hit .371 with a 1.110 OPS.

Pivetta pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief in Friday night’s abysmal 19-11 loss to the Marlins. He allowed four hits, walked two and was charged with five runs in the fifth inning, four of which were unearned after a costly error by third baseman Maikel Franco.

On his way out the door Saturday, Pivetta was asked if he believed he’d still be in the majors if the Phillies had played good defense behind him Friday night.

“I have no idea,” he said. “That’s my teammates. They try every single night and they work their ass off every day.”

Pivetta’s pitching role remains up in the air. Kapler said it was possible he could get some work as a starter in Triple A. He will likely be back in September because the Phillies need arms, but in what role?

“We’re open to any and all possibilities,” Kapler said.

Pivetta prefers starting. He’s made that clear a number of times. Asked Saturday if his heart was in relieving, he said, “Whatever the team needs me to do is what I’ll do.”

For now, the team needs him to go to Triple A. The Phillies brought up relievers Austin Davis and Edgar Garcia as Pivetta went down and Juan Nicasio went to the injured list with a sore shoulder.

“We know that there’s a more effective version of Nick in there,” Kapler said of Pivetta. “We want him to continue to work on his craft. In particular, we think that the more he can command, first control then command, his breaking ball, the better he’s going to be. And just as importantly, he’s going to be down for a couple of days and that’s the nature of this business; sometimes you need length on your roster and Austin Davis provides that length for us. He was the right choice for our group at this time.”

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Revelations and takeaways from the Roy Halladay E60 documentary

Revelations and takeaways from the Roy Halladay E60 documentary

There was so much of note in Friday's powerful hourlong E60 documentary of the life and death of Roy Halladay. Heartbreaking recollections from his widow, Brandy, troubling details of his addiction to prescription opioids, and the valuable lesson that hopefully can come from such a painful tragedy.

"I just wanted him to slow down," Brandy said.

"Roy had none," she said of the balance in his life at points.

"He didn't feel he had the luxury of making mistakes, he was truly tormented."

How Halladay's opioid addiction began

Halladay popped his back during the 2011 season and pitched through it. He pitched through pain the night the Phillies' playoff hopes ended in a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS after a franchise-record 102 regular-season wins.

Brandy told a story of Roy experiencing such back pain that he once fell down sneezing around that time.

Halladay began taking prescription opioids in the spring of 2012, obtaining them by paying cash to a doctor in Florida who was recommended to him by a Phillies teammate.

"He was continuing to hurt himself, and the more he hurt himself, the more dependent he would be on medication," Brandy said. "He was breaking his back. He actually shrunk three inches from compression in his spine. That's insane."

Former teammate and pupil Kyle Kendrick, who looked up to Halladay as a role model and mentor, noticed that something wasn't right. 

"At his locker, I was right next to him. You'd try to talk to him and you'd feel like he wasn't there," Kendrick said. "As a friend, I felt like I should say something. I felt like he might need help. A teammate and I said something to someone who worked for the team."

The teammate confronted Halladay about his drug use during the 2013 season but nothing changed.

Fear of public scrutiny

Halladay's body became dependent on the medications to function. All the while, he privately dealt with the fear of others finding out. He was tormented by the potential public scrutiny.

"Everybody should be able to ask for help and they shouldn't be looked down on and judged for that," Brandy said several times throughout the documentary. If there is one lesson to be learned from this tragedy, it is that.

Roy Halladay went to rehab for his painkiller addiction during the 2013 season, his final year in the majors. Many Phillies fans will remember the stress-filled, sweat-soaked 13 starts Halladay made that final year. At times, that was a reaction to the medication in his system.

He left rehab early, Brandy said, because he had been recognized and someone had snuck a phone into the facility. Roy was nervous about word of his stint in rehab leaking out.

The struggle to find a purpose

After retirement, in the years before Halladay recaptured some of his joy and passion by coaching his sons' baseball teams, Roy "stopped taking care of himself, inside and out," according to Brandy. His weight rose to over 300 pounds at one point in retirement, then down to 205 at another.

He reentered rehab in January 2015 for the painkiller addiction and was there three months. When he returned home, he began seeing a psychiatrist and was formally diagnosed with ADD, depression and anxiety. 

In retirement, Halladay struggled to find a purpose. 

"He was lost, he didn't know what to do with himself," Brandy said. "Flying was therapeutic."

Doc's days in the air

The circumstances of Halladay's death were documented in a 2018 toxicology report and in a report from the National Transportation Safety Board last month. He had Zolpidem, amphetamine and morphine in his system at the time he crashed his Icon A5 plane into the Gulf of Mexico. According to the NTSB report, Halladay was doing extreme acrobatics when he lost control.

Halladay received his pilot's license in 2013. He had spent much time in the air with his father, Roy II, a pilot, from a young age, and had accrued more than 700 flying hours himself before the crash.

"He was an excellent pilot," Roy II said of his son. "Mechanically, his skills were very good. He kept working for additional ratings."

Yet still, Brandy didn't feel it was totally safe. 

"He was trying to fill this void by buying boats and planes and cars and shoes," she said. "Roy was an adrenaline guy, he was always looking for that rush."

When Roy got his Icon A5, a plane that made him feel like he was flying a fighter jet, "he was so excited, he couldn't control himself," Brandy said.

"My concern was after he got the (Icon A5), he kept talking about how sporty it was, how much of a sports car it was," his father said. "I said be careful with it."

The tragedy

Halladay died 35 days after getting the Icon A5. According to the NTSB report, he frequently flew at low altitudes in shallow water and flew underneath a bridge in Tampa with Brandy on board 12 days before the fatal crash.

On the day of the crash, he and Brandy were supposed to see one of their sons' band perform at a school concert. Roy told Brandy he'd return the Icon A5 to the airport and meet her there. He texted her while she was driving, "I'm so sorry, I should have just gone with you, another wasted day." Instead of flying north to the airport, he had flown west to the Gulf of Mexico where the crash occurred.

"I had so much more in the future I wanted for us and it was hard to know that it was just done," Brandy Halladay said.

"I know in my heart it was an accident. I want to make sure that people understand that he was just a man. Perfect, I hate that word, perfect. I just want him to be Roy. I hope somebody hears our story and says, 'Wow, I'm going to ask for help.'"

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Phillies Talk podcast: Still optimistic about July 4? Thoughts on Roy Halladay

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On the latest Phillies Talk podcast, the guys explored whether an early-July start date could still be achievable for MLB, and their Roy Halladay memories on the 10-year anniversary of his perfect game.

• Is a July 4 start date possible at this point with no resolution in sight?

• Deadlines help, but would a deadline be artificial?

• Challenging the idea that fans would never come back if baseball went away in 2020.

• Benefits and hindrances of extending the season from 82 games to 100-110.

• The opposing perspective from the night Halladay threw his perfect game.

• Doc's legendary 2010 season even aside from that perfecto.

• A preview of the exciting 2008 Phillies playoff re-airs and specials on tap.

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