Phillies: Rookie jitters over, expect more from Nick Pivetta in 2018

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 05: Starting pitcher Nick Pivetta
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 05: Starting pitcher Nick Pivetta /
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Growing pains for Philadelphia Phillies sophomore Nick Pivetta are far from over. However, the young pitcher should have a much better year in 2018.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta will always be associated with Jonathan Papelbon. After all, they were traded for one another. Pivetta does have an opportunity to become more than “the guy the Phillies got for that irate closer.” A strong career in Philadelphia can make how he ended up with the Phillies an afterthought.

Unfortunately, Pivetta hasn’t performed well enough to make us forget why he’s on the Phillies in the first place. The 24-year-old debuted with 26 starts in 2017, resulting in an 8-10 record and 6.02 ERA. Numbers like these are closer to what a pitcher from the Steroid Era on the Colorado Rockies might do than any other time in history.

If he wants to stay a major league pitcher, Pivetta will need to advance well beyond the rookie jitters of last season. Can he do it?

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Some Good News

Not everything for Pivetta looked disastrous last year. He struck out more than a batter per inning and managed to toss 133 innings during his debut season. Any pitcher who can get on the field consistently and strike batters out has a chance to improve. His walk rate, while high, wasn’t a major hindrance either.

Before joining the Phillies last year, Pivetta looked magnificent with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Through five starts there, Pivetta went 5-0 with a ridiculous 1.41 ERA. Pivetta only walked a pair of batters in his 32 innings and fanned 37.

Starts like these are what Pivetta needs to become a true star in MLB. Though he may never get to that level, the Phillies would willingly accept anything close to it.

Only Aaron Nola spent more time on the mound for the Phillies last season than Pivetta. Trust from the organization should help him. Even through rough patches, Pivetta stayed in the rotation. The results weren’t very good at all, but we can hope those early phobias are now gone.

Pivetta’s Role in 2018 with the Phillies

The Phillies are far from naming their Opening Day rotation. Pivetta should find his way among the five starters even with the poor 2017 campaign. He’ll likely battle it out with Jerad Eickhoff, Ben Lively, Vince Velasquez, and Jake Thompson for the final spot. Of course, the Phillies could always add a veteran and take away one opportunity from one of these youngsters.

If it happens, it’s not horrible news for Pivetta. As one of the younger starters they have, he could always spend a season pitching in relief. His stuff might actually translate better in a back-of-the-bullpen role. Unlike Velasquez who I’m convinced belongs in the bullpen next year, Pivetta may only need a year to build more confidence.

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Whatever the Phillies decide to do with Pivetta, I have a hard time believing he struggles the same way he did in 2017.