nick pivetta

Ruben Amaro Jr. thinks former pitching coach Chris Young did Nick Pivetta and other Phillies pitchers a 'disservice'

Ruben Amaro Jr. thinks former pitching coach Chris Young did Nick Pivetta and other Phillies pitchers a 'disservice'

It's been a tumultuous year and a half for Nick Pivetta, who just last March entered the season as the Phillies No. 2 starter behind Aaron Nola.

Pivetta was optioned to the Phillies' satellite site at Lehigh Valley on Tuesday after another poor performance out of the bullpen. With the Phillies leading the Braves 13-1 Monday, Pivetta entered in the ninth inning to get work and allowed six runs while recording just one out. In three appearances this season, he allowed 10 earned runs and three homers in 5⅔ innings.

Some believed Pivetta's big fastball would play better out of the 'pen, that perhaps his true potential was as a hard-throwing reliever. But his ERA as a reliever (6.32) is even higher than as a starter (5.42). As a reliever, Pivetta has allowed his opponents a .934 OPS.

Pivetta is one of many Phillies pitchers who showed no progress under former pitching coach Chris Young, who was promoted from assistant pitching coach after 2018, his first year on Gabe Kapler's staff. The organization's decision to let go of well-respected veteran pitching coach Rick Kranitz that offseason to promote Young played out horribly. The team ERA ballooned from 4.14 to 4.53. The Phillies allowed 66 more runs than they did the year before. But it went well beyond the numbers.

Former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. noticed that lack of growth in the pitchers the Phillies needed it from most under Young. He raised that point on the latest Phillies Talk podcast.

"I do want to say one thing about that. I think their progression was stalled in a lot of ways by the last pitching coach they had," Amaro said of Pivetta and Vince Velasquez. "I think they were progressing really well under Rick Kranitz and I think Chris Young didn't do either one of those guys a service. A disservice in some ways. 

"I really ultimately believe that Bryan Price, with more time and more work — emotionally, physically, mentally — I think Bryan can help these guys become much more effective pitchers. It does take pitchers at times longer to be able to develop and to mature appropriately. I just wish Bryan had more of a normal progression to be able to work with these guys to get them to the point where they're gonna be much more effective pitchers."

Pivetta was a popular breakout candidate in the baseball world entering 2019. The prior year, he had struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings and walked 2.8, showing real promise as a bat-misser with potentially above-average control. But after an offseason of hype, he couldn't find a role that fit and still hasn't. He may have thrown his last pitch as a Phillie.

Amaro credited Zach Eflin, who veered away from the previous coaching staff's high-fastball instructions last summer to go back to basing his repertoire around his sinker. From Eflin to Jake Arrieta, Phillies pitchers have talked about their faith in first-year pitching coach Price and their excitement to pitch the way they feel confident pitching.

Eflin and Arrieta are both off to solid starts. Eflin struck out a career-high 10 on Wednesday and Arrieta is coming off of six shutout innings against the Braves.

"When you start trying to make players and pitchers cookie-cutter types of players, then you're taking away from their natural athleticism and ability to perform," Amaro said. "There is a reason why they were drafted, a reason why they are professional players. Yes, you want to tweak certain abilities, but to me it's about making sure that you enhance their qualities. 

"Eflin, for example, they tried to change him into the pitcher he's not. He is an outstanding sinker-slider pitcher with a lead-pipe sinker and if you take that pitch away from that man, you put him in jeopardy of not being able to be an effective pitcher. He finally got to the point where he got fed up and said I'm gonna do it my way and go back to where I need to be. I think he's gonna be a much better pitcher as a result of that. 

"Now, do certain guys need to be tweaked or develop another pitch, a cutter, a changeup, whatever the case may be? Yes. But I think a coach is going to enhance that player's real, true abilities and then try to tweak some of the challenges that the player is not able to do consistently. That's the role of a coach for me."

Other topics that came up with Amaro included his time scouting Nola at LSU and how to navigate the unusual 2020 trade deadline (Aug. 31).

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Phillies part with last man in Cole Hamels trade, demote Nick Pivetta, add reliever Connor Brogdon

Phillies part with last man in Cole Hamels trade, demote Nick Pivetta, add reliever Connor Brogdon

The Phillies on Tuesday made some changes to the worst bullpen in the majors.

Promising right-hander Connor Brogdon and veteran Blake Parker were both promoted from the team’s reserve camp in Lehigh Valley. 

In corresponding moves, the Phillies optioned pitcher Nick Pivetta to the camp in Lehigh Valley. That move came the day after he was torched for six hits and six runs in the ninth inning of Monday’s 13-8 win over Atlanta.

To make room for Brogdon and Parker on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated reliever Trevor Kelley and outfielder Nick Williams for assignment.

The removal of Williams from the roster was hardly surprising, but it was certainly noteworthy. Williams, 26, came to the Phillies in one of the biggest trades that the club has made in recent years, the deal that sent Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to the Texas Rangers on July 31, 2015.

In addition to Williams, the Phillies picked up catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitchers Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson and Alec Asher in the deal. Five years later, all of those players have moved on. J.T. Realmuto, acquired from Miami in February 2019 for a package that included Alfaro, represents the last vestige of that deal. He will be eligible for free agency after this season.

Williams played parts of three seasons in the majors with the Phils. He hit .269 with 29 homers, 105 RBIs and a .776 OPS in 720 at-bats in 2017 and 2018 but could not solidify a spot in the team’s future plans. When the Phils signed corner outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper to long-term deals before the 2019 season, Williams’ days with the club became numbered because he’s only capable of playing corner outfield spots. Williams struggled mightily in limited time in the majors last season. He fell out of favor with management and openly longed for the change of scenery he will get if he is traded or picked up on waivers by another club.

Pivetta was also acquired in a trade in the summer of 2015. He also could be in need of a change of scenery after a poor season in 2019 and a poor start to this season. He allowed 10 hits and 10 runs in 5 2/3 innings before being sent out Tuesday. According to a source with another big-league club, the Phillies are open to trading Pivetta, but that’s hardly a surprise.

The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against Baltimore with the worst bullpen ERA in the majors at 9.87. The starters, meanwhile, had an ERA of 3.20, fifth best in the majors.

Parker spent some time with the Phillies last season.

Brogdon, 25, pitched at three levels of the Phillies’ system last season and had a 2.61 ERA in 51 games. The lanky righty has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and an excellent changeup. He struck out 106 and walked just 24 in 76 innings last season. The Phillies actually considered bringing up Brogdon late last season. Now, he’s here.

“There’s a lot of upside with Connor,” manager Joe Girardi said.

In other bullpen news, David Robertson and Ranger Suarez are both scheduled to throw bullpen sessions at Citizens Bank Park in the coming days before joining the 60-man player pool in Lehigh Valley. Robertson had Tommy John surgery a year ago. The Phillies hope he can make it back to help during the final month of the season. Suarez could also help. He is building strength after being in COVID protocol.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Ruben Amaro Jr. critical of previous pitching coach

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Phillies Talk podcast: Ruben Amaro Jr. critical of previous pitching coach

Former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. joined the Phillies Talk podcast to discuss the Phils' handling of young pitchers and the unusual trade deadline ahead.

• Amaro critical of the handling of Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez under former pitching coach Chris Young.

• Should Joe Girardi have pulled Aaron Nola after eight innings Monday night?

• Thoughts on Spencer Howard's MLB debut.

• Amaro recalls personally scouting Nola at LSU.

• How to handle this unusual Aug. 31 trade deadline.

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