The Phillies are tinkering with their starting rotation, recalling Nick Pivetta, who will reclaim his spot in the rotation and is slated to start Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals, tweets Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Meanwhile, right-hander Vince Velasquez will transition to a full-time bullpen role moving forward.
Velasquez, who boasts impressive strikeout stuff, has long been mentioned as a candidate to work out of the bullpen, and now we will have a chance to see just how his stuff plays in abbreviated outings in relief. After an impressive two-inning performance on Friday in which he struck out four batters, the Phils will give the 26-year-old Velasquez an extended look out of the bullpen. Velasquez certainly fits the prototype for converted relievers: for his career, the right-hander averages more than one strikeout per inning pitched, but that talent has thus far translated to a mediocre 4.52 career ERA. This season, walks and home runs have emerged as an issue, surrendering 1.9 HR/9 to go with 4.5 BB/9.
Taking his spot in the starting rotation will be Pivetta, who earned himself a short stint in the minor leagues after a frustrating start to his 2019, a year in which he was supposed to break out. Needless to say, there’s still time for Pivetta, who has long tantalized fans with elite pure stuff, to reverse his early-season misfortune and make good on his potential. If his six minor-league starts are any indicator of what’s to come, his raw stuff is still there: the 26-year-old struck out 50 batters in 37 Triple-A innings, good for a ratio of 12.2 K/9. By and large, though, it has been the long ball that has plagued Pivetta in 2019, having allowed 2.5 per nine innings pitched, an average that must come down if he’s to return to the form that he flashed last season.
An improved version of Pivetta would certainly be welcomed by the Phillies, who have received mixed results from their starting rotation, received good production from Zach Eflin, though Aaron Nola has yet to perform like the ace of last year’s staff. At the same time, experimenting with Velasquez in the bullpen could unlock something that prevented him from reaching his full potential as a starter. If something clicks, the Phillies could have themselves a versatile multi-inning threat, a role that surely is of considerable value for a contending team.