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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