PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Phillies apparently aren’t going to wait for Nick Pivetta’s breakout year.
The Phillies optioned the starting pitcher to the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Wednesday morning. Philadelphia promoted infielder Phil Gosselin to the big leagues.
Pivetta was 2-1 with an 8.35 ERA in four starts this season. He had allowed 31 hits in 18 1/3 innings.
One sequence Tuesday night typified his season. The Phillies scored 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning. But in the top of the second, Pivetta allowed a home run to the first batter he faced — Mets catcher Wilson Ramos.
“This was a tough decision,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Wednesday morning. “We all know how highly we think of Nick. This is something we’re doing because it’s in the best interest of Nick Pivetta and it’s in the best interest of the Phillies.”
There was plenty of buzz about Pivetta in spring training. The 26-year-old right-hander impressed with his ability to make batters swing and miss. He averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings last season. But that number dipped to 7.9 strikeouts this season.
“Nick has all the ingredients to be a top-of-the- line major league starter,” Klentak said. “Everyone in this organization still believes he’s going to do it. Frankly, we believe he’s going to do it this year. But right now after four tough starts, we need to get him into an environment where he can get his confidence back.”
The Phillies plan to start Jerad Eickhoff in Pivetta’s place Sunday in Colorado against the Rockies. Eickhoff struck out six in four scoreless innings against the Mets on Tuesday night. Eickhoff, 28, dealt with numerous arm injuries the past few seasons.
He appeared in just three games last season. Eickhoff was 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA in 33 starts in 2016.
“Jerad’s had a pretty (tough) road back,” Klentak said.
“There’s no harder worker. To see what he’s done in spring training, the early part of April and (Tuesday) night is phenomenal. We think Jerad has earned the chance to get into the rotation.”
Despite Pivetta’s struggles, the move was a surprise. More than anything, Pivetta’s demotion shows the Phillies (10-6) are no longer willing to sacrifice games to develop young players.
“We’ve played 16 games,” Klentak said. “We’ve all seen how competitive these games are going to be. The difference in a game might be one pitch, a defensive play, or one key at-bat. This is going to be a dogfight all year. Performance matters. Every game matters.”