TAMPA, Fla. — Nick Pivetta allowed three runs Wednesday night before he could even record a second out. There was a moment when it seemed that Pivetta, competing this spring to be the Phillies’ fifth starter, would not even finish the first inning of a 3-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees.
Single. Out. Wild pitch. Single. Single. Error. Single.
And then Pivetta settled in. He finished the first with a strikeout and did not allow a hit the rest of the way, retiring nine of the final 11 batters he faced at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The only two batters who reached were on walks.
“It was interesting to get through something like that,” Pivetta said after allowing three runs on four hits in 3⅓ innings. “Bad breaks on ground balls and stuff like that, but that’s going to happen. I feel like I bounced back in the next two innings really, really well. I got really quick outs. Lowered the pitch count. Then I think I got to my pitch count in the last inning. I felt like as a whole I executed all my pitches really well.”
Pivetta struck out four and walked two. He executed his change-up — the pitch he’s crafting this spring — to get Tyler Wade to fly out for the second out of the first inning, the out Pivetta needed to stymie a rally. He struck out Luke Voit in the third with a slider.
Pivetta approached spring training with the mindset that he could no longer be a two-pitch pitcher if he wanted to crack the starting rotation. Relying strictly on a fastball and curveball was a good way to end up in the bullpen. So he’s working on his change-up and slider and both pitches showed progress in Tampa.
It was his third start of spring and manager Joe Girardi said he would give the competitors — Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, and Ranger Suarez — three starts before the competition for the final rotation spots truly began. It will add some intrigue to the final stretch of camp.
“I evaluate myself on my stuff,” Pivetta said. “I feel like I commanded all my pitches really, really well tonight. That’s my main focus. If I’m commanding all four pitches. That’s the best to my ability, then that can speak for itself. I’m just trying to get myself ready for the season as a four-pitch pitcher and that’s my biggest focus.
"Whatever it comes down to, of course every single outing during spring training is very, very important. Obviously getting your work in, doing a whole bunch of different stuff, varying everything and trying to like harness what you have, so I think if you just focus on that and focus on yourself, the rest will take care of itself.”
Jay Bruce has yet to play the field, but his bat seems ready for the season. His homer in the sixth -- a two-run shot off righthander Michael King -- gave the Phillies their only runs of the night. Bruce is 3- for-10 this spring with two doubles and a homer.
He should play left field within the next week, but Bruce is adamant that he will be ready for opening day. He could be the starting left fielder because Andrew McCutchen will open the season on the injured list.