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Nick Pivetta struggles in latest start for Phillies’ triple-A IronPigs

Pivetta is hoping to return to the Phillies this season but he labored through five innings in Tuesday's start against the Syracuse Mets

Nick Pivetta pitching for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Sunday, April 28, 2019. COURTESY / LEHIGH VALLEY IRONPIGS
Nick Pivetta pitching for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Sunday, April 28, 2019. COURTESY / LEHIGH VALLEY IRONPIGSRead more

ALLENTOWN – Following a dominant performance that earned him International League pitcher of the week honors, Nick Pivetta looked to take another step toward a return to the Phillies.

But, facing a Syracuse Mets lineup filled with one-time major leaguers, the 26-year-old right-hander struggled on Tuesday night, allowing three runs in five innings for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Throwing consistently in the 94 to 95-mph range, Pivetta ran several deep counts. He threw 98 pitches, 54 for strikes. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Pivetta allowed four hits and walked four batters while striking out five. His record improved to 4-1.

“It is not always going to go your way,” Pivetta said. “At the end of the day, I did the best I could and got the win tonight, so that is a positive. I made my pitches when I had to. I didn’t have the crispest stuff tonight, but the team pulled through, and we got the win.”

Manager Gary Jones said the game showed Pivetta’s mental toughness.

“Tonight wasn’t his best night but I was very proud of how he handled it and grinded through it and went about his business,” Jones said.

Veteran catcher Rene Rivera drove in all three runs against Pivetta with a first-inning sacrifice fly and a sharp two-run single up the middle in the fifth inning.

This start followed a three-hit, 11-strikeout, one-run performance in Durham, N.C., on May 16, with the IronPigs winning, 7-5.

There has been speculation that the Phillies might use Pivetta in relief because he throws hard, but he will likely need a more-consistent showing than this one against Syracuse.

When asked about his role as a potential reliever, Pivetta declined to comment.

He also said he doesn’t concern himself with being recalled.

“I am focused on what I need to do down here to make myself a better pitcher and help the team win,” he said.

Syracuse also has former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, who started in left field and went 0 for 1 with a strikeout and walk against Pivetta.

It was Pivetta’s sixth start for the IronPigs, and he has a 3.41 ERA. He began the season with the Phillies, going 2-1 with an 8.35 ERA in four starts before being optioned to Lehigh Valley on April 17.

Last year, he was 7-14 with a 4.77 ERA in 32 starts for the Phillies. Among National League starters, he ranked fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (10.32).

Extra Bases

Manager Gary Jones said before the game that outfielder Dylan Cozens is out for the season after undergoing foot surgery. Cozens had a .167/.333/.462 slash line with six home runs, 20 walks, and 42 strikeouts in 23 games for the IronPigs. Cozens had one at-bat this season in his lone game with the Phillies. Last year he made his major-league debut and batted .158 with a home run in 38 at-bats.

Later, Cozens tweeted: “Not out for season.”

Jones responded, “He will be out a long time.”

Nick Williams, who the Phillies optioned to Lehigh Valley on Sunday, has yet to report to the team. Williams has 72 hours to report. Jones said he expected Williams to be at the ballpark on Wednesday.