As the Phillies seek to map out a pitching plan that keeps them on top of the National League East, they’re preparing for a rotation change. The team is presently deciding whether to return Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez to the starting five in time to take the ball next Tuesday, manager Gabe Kapler told reporters including Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia (via Twitter).
Both of those talented but uneven hurlers opened the year in the rotation, but the ground has shifted in the two months since. Pivetta was hit hard in four starts and ended up being optioned back down to figure things out. Velasquez has been shelved with a forearm strain for a few weeks.
In their absence, the Phillies brought in some new arms. Jerad Eickhoff came first; he has firmly laid claim to a job. The same can’t be said of Cole Irvin, who’ll now be bumped out of the group of five. Irvin was bombed in his third start of the year and is likely ticketed for a trip back to Triple-A on optional assignment.
In the aggregate, there’s one spot up for grabs. Pivetta’s claim to the role is simple: he has racked up fifty strikeouts and allowed just 22 hits in 37 Triple-A frames. The stuff is there. He’s also still not commanding the ball perfectly, as evidenced by his twenty walks in that same stretch against minor-league competition. Pivetta’s latest start wasn’t his sharpest effort, as Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Wandering command has also been an issue for Velasquez. He’s occasionally dominant but has never strung together an exceptional overall season. Velasquez owns a 3.86 ERA in 30 1/3 innings this year, but has been awfully homer- and walk-prone (with seven of the former and 15 of the latter).
Ultimately, both pitchers are sure to have an impact at the MLB level this year (presuming good health, at least). Perhaps both could ultimately be utilized in multi-inning roles other than those of a traditional starter, whether in tandem with one another or in concert with other pitchers. There are plenty of creative possibilities.
For the time being, the Phils need to figure out which pitcher can best help the team rack up the wins it needs to fend off the divisional competition, all while assessing how best the roster can be improved in the summer trade market. Unless Pivetta or Velazquez takes the job and runs with it, there could be more tinkering to come.