nick pivetta

At the Yard podcast: Phillies somehow still alive; Spencer Howard's role; futures of Nick Pivetta and Corey Dickerson

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At the Yard podcast: Phillies somehow still alive; Spencer Howard's role; futures of Nick Pivetta and Corey Dickerson

The Phillies are somehow still in the playoff race and Gabe Kapler called a meeting to remind them. Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss that, Spencer Howard's role in September and the futures of two Phillies on "At the Yard."

• How are Phillies still in such good playoff shape?

• Kapler calls a team meeting.

• What would Spencer Howard's role be if he's called up in September?

• Nick Pivetta's future.

• Could Phillies re-sign Corey Dickerson?

• Updates on two injured relievers.

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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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Phillies don't get enough from Zach Eflin, offense as winning streak ends in loss to Padres

Phillies don't get enough from Zach Eflin, offense as winning streak ends in loss to Padres

The Phillies’ winning streak was stopped at four games in a 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night. The Phillies have not won five straight games all season.

Right-hander Zach Eflin returned to the rotation and could not hold a 3-0 lead. He twice was one strike away from getting out of the fourth inning, but allowed a pair of hits after being up 0-2 in the count and that led to three San Diego runs, and the Padres pulled ahead with a couple of runs against ineffective Nick Pivetta in the fifth.

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the second on doubles by Jean Segura and Scott Kingery and a single by Eflin. Smokin’ hot J.T. Realmuto homered in the third. But the Phils did not score after that as San Diego right-hander Dinelson Lamet delivered six innings of three-run ball.

The loss dropped the Phillies to a game out of the second wild-card spot in the National League. The Phils are 64-59.

Eflin’s night

Eflin was the Phillies’ most consistent starter over the first two months of the season and their least consistent in July. That led to his being moved to the bullpen for three weeks.

Jake Arrieta’s season-ending elbow injury forced the Phillies to put Eflin back in the rotation and he did not fare all that well in his first start since July 27.

Eflin pitched scoreless ball for the first three innings and enjoyed a 3-0 lead but could not get out of the fourth inning and allowed three runs.

Trouble putting hitters away

All of the Padres’ runs in the third inning came with two outs. Eflin had Lamet, the opposing pitcher, down 0-2 in the count and could not put him away. Lamet kept the inning alive with a full-count single on a four-seam fastball. Eflin then had Manuel Margot, 0-2, and gave up an RBI single. He then gave up a two-run double to Josh Naylor on a 2-2 four-seamer. Eflin had been ahead in that count, 1-2, but could not put Naylor away.

Second time not a charm

It was not surprising to see Eflin open with three scoreless frames. Entering the game, he’d held opposing hitters to a .213 batting average the first time through the order. Opponents had been hitting .363 the second time through. Clearly, opposing hitters are getting better looks at Eflin as the game goes on. Eflin has not pitched more than four innings in four of his last five starts. He hit a wall in the fourth inning on July 20 in Pittsburgh and left that game after four innings with “heavy legs.” Eflin is going to have to figure out a way to build more endurance over the winter. In the meantime, he needs to pitch deeper into games the remainder of this season because the Phils are thin on starting pitching and innings in their rotation and he has too much talent to be such a middling starter.

Different approach

Eflin threw 73 pitches, including 27 sinkers. That 37 percent mark was his highest of the season. He’d really de-emphasized the pitch recently, but featured it often in this one and had some success with it in the first three innings.

Eflin allowed seven hits in 3 2/3 innings only got one swing and miss in 73 pitches.

Offense slows down

After 35 hits and 26 runs in the previous three games, all with Charlie Manuel in the dugout as hitting coach, the Phils were held to just six hits.

Rhys Hoskins returned to the starting lineup -- he did not start Friday because of a sore hand – and went 0 for 3. He is 6 for 57 (.105) in his last 17 games.

Bryce Harper proved human by going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

Realmuto stayed hot. He has eight homers and 21 RBIs in his last 22 games. 

Up next

The two teams meet again in the series finale Sunday afternoon. Jason Vargas (6-6, 4.03) opposes Joey Lucchesi (7-7, 4.25) in a matchup of lefties.

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