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Pivetta could become an odd-man-out of Phils rotation

Nick Pivetta
Nick Pivetta throws a pitch during a game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on July 1, 2018. The Phillies won 4-3 in 13 innings. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

Nick Pivetta started the season looking like a guy who had figured something out and was putting it to good use on the mound. In April, he posted a sleek 2.79 ERA and by the end of May was still looking very good with a 3.26 ERA. That’s where things started to go downhill. Since June 1st, Pivetta has a 6.70 ERA and is 2-6.

In the three games that Pivetta pitched since June 1st where he did not get a decision, the Phillies went 1-2. In one of those games – June 24th against Washington – Pivetta left after five innings with a 6-2 lead but the Phillies wound up losing 8-6. In the game that the Phillies won, Pivetta lasted just 2 2/3 innings and left with the Phillies up 5-3 in a game they eventually won 17-5 against Pittsburgh. One of Pivetta’s two wins since June 1st came in the wild 4-3, 13-inning win against the Nationals on July 1st when he came on in relief to pitch the top of the 13th, threw a scoreless inning and the Phillies won the game in the bottom of the 13th.

It’s known that the Phillies have been looking for a starting pitcher. They were sniffing around on both Nathan Eovaldi and Cole Hamels but missed on both. They’ve also reportedly been watching another Tampa Bay pitcher, Chris Archer. Of course, Archer would step into Pivetta’s spot in the rotation if he were to become a Phillie.

Even if they can’t pick up a shiny new starting pitcher, the Phillies could still replace Pivetta with one of their internal candidates.

Enyel De Los Santos has made two starts for the Phillies, allowing three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Mets and then getting hit for five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in his second start. Ranger Suarez was pressed into a major league start when the Phillies needed a spot starter last week after having to play a doubleheader on Sunday and De Los Santos had not spent the required ten days in the minors after having been optioned out after his last start. Suarez allowed four earned runs in five innings of work against Cincinnati.

The pitching prospect who has shown the most development this season with Lehigh Valley hasn’t even gotten his shot at pitching in the majors yet. Cole Irvin isn’t on the 40-man roster, making his chances of pitching for the Phillies a little tougher since they would need to clear a spot on both the 25 and 40-man rosters.

Suarez, 22, has made 15 minor league starts this season – 12 at Reading and three with Lehigh Valley – and they are his only starts above High-A ball. He’s made the most of the starts, going a combined 5-3 with a 2.38 ERA. Had he not been on the 40-man roster and the Phillies been in a pinch for a starter, Suarez wouldn’t have been the one to get the start in Cincinnati.

None of Suarez’ pitches are killers but when he mixes them well and uses his command to move them around, he can be tough to hit. Suarez throws a fastball, slider and curve and isn’t likely to be a strikeout pitcher and gets a lot of soft groundball outs.

De Los Santos pitched at Double-A last season in the Padres organization before being acquired in exchange for shortstop Freddy Galvis last winter. With Lehigh Valley this season he’s made 17 starts and is 9-3 with a 1.99 ERA.

The 22-year old right-hander has a mid-90s fastball and mixes it well with an above average change-up and a curve that drops to the upper-70s at times and has a slow break to it that gets a lot of swing-and-miss reactions from hitters. De Los Santos also has good command and gets a lot of groundball outs.

Irvin, who was drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2016 Draft, has moved swiftly through the organization and skipped over Double-A ball to pitch for Lehigh Valley this season. The move turned out well for Irvin who is 9-3 and 2.93 ERA for the IronPigs. The Phillies likely won’t be in a rush to add Irvin to the 40-man roster since he’s not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft until after next season. While there’s no rush, it’s not out of the question that the Phillies would look to find a way to add him to the 40-man and bring him to Philadelphia even if it’s just for a couple of September starts.

Irvin, 24, has four good, but not overwhelming, pitches and he has good command of all of them. He’s a lot like Suarez in that while none of them are a dominant pitch, his ability to mix the pitches and move them to different parts of the zone make his repertoire as a whole impressive.

For now, the Phillies are saying all of the right things concerning Pivetta

“We’ve seen it this year,” Kapler told reporters following Pivetta’s performance Friday night in a Phillies loss. “It’s not like we have to dream on something. We’ve seen stretches of dominance this year and we know it’s still in there because he’s had flashes of dominance in each game that he’s pitched. It’s not dreaming on something. It’s been there in our recent memory and it will be there in short order.”

There’s no denying that Pivetta has enough good pitches to pitch at the major league level but he simply hasn’t put it all together for any period of time outside of the first couple months of this season.

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