Gabe Kapler was in the Phillies dugout Sunday afternoon, meaning he was unable to watch Nick Pivetta total a career-high strikeouts 65 miles away in a minor-league ballpark.
Pivetta, who was sent 11 days earlier to triple A, was pitching the way the Phillies had hoped he would this season when they locked him into their starting rotation. But it was happening in Allentown. So Kapler spent Monday’s off-day, which provided him a break from the dugout, by dissecting the film of what Pivetta did a day earlier.
“I think it was pretty impressive,” Kapler said. “One of the things that we’re consistently trying to weigh is: What does it mean to strikeout 14 batters in Lehigh Valley in triple A? It’s a much different level of competition.”
It was what Kapler saw in that film — 14 strikeouts, one run, three hits, and three walks in six innings — that led the manager to have conversations with various team officials about using Pivetta in the bullpen. The Phillies currently have a full rotation. An opening does not appear imminent.
Perhaps Pivetta and his powerful fastball could be best utilized as a late-inning relief weapon. It is a move, Kapler said, the team is considering.
“We were balancing that with knowing that at any time he might be one of our five best starters,” Kapler said. “And we can envision him in a situation late in the season where he’s really important in our rotation, or sooner rather than later. So, I think there’s a balance. I guess my personal take on it, just being open with you, is I don’t think there’s a whole lot of risk to seeing him out of the bullpen. I don’t think it stunts his development as a starting pitcher to see him out of the bullpen. But I think there are a lot of stakeholders who need to be involved in this discussion.”
The Phillies could use a jolt in their bullpen. Tommy Hunter is out until the end of May, David Robertson is still on the mend with an arm injury and Victor Arano is out for an undisclosed time after receiving an injection Tuesday afternoon to alleviate his elbow inflammation. If Pivetta can not start for the Phillies, he would be much more valuable in their bullpen than in the starting rotation for the IronPigs.
“It would have to be well thought-out. A lot of scouting opinions, a lot of experience considered. It wouldn’t be something where we say ‘Well, let’s see how it goes,’” Kapler said. “I think all of us collectively are jumping the gun. It’s not a move that we’re making tomorrow. It’s something that we’re discussing and brainstorming about but it’s not something that’s imminent.”
Not only was Pivetta racking up strikeouts 65 miles away, but he was pitching with the sense of purpose the Phillies yearned for him to have on the major-league mound. The Phillies challenged him this season to pitch with poise and attack batters with the confidence that they could not keep up with his fastball. Monday’s film session provided a glimpse of that. And the conversations that followed tried to determine the next move.
“The stuff was really good. We all thought that if his mind-set was ‘I’m going to take this through the entire outing,’ then it could’ve been even better,” Kapler said. “We’re still working on bringing the best mentality in Nick and if we’re able to unlock that with him, if we’re able to unlock the toughest mental competitor with Nick, we’re able to get a top of the rotation starter. And it’s worth it. All of the work that’s being done, thinking about this, considering every possible angle, is all in an effort to get him to be the pitcher we know he can be.”
Alec Bohm, last June’s first-round pick, was promoted to high-A Clearwater on Tuesday afternoon after being named the Phillies minor-league co-player of the week.
Bohm batted .367 with a 1.036 OPS and three homers in 22 games with low-A Lakewood. He likely would have began this season in Clearwater, but his first season was slowed last summer by a shin contusion. The goal would be for the 22-year-old third baseman to end this season in double-A Reading. He shared the player of the week honors with third baseman Jose Gomez, who was promoted from Clearwater to Reading.