PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Drew Smyly is officially part of the Phillies, and he got to work quickly with his scheduled start Sunday in Pittsburgh.
The Phillies made the signing official before Sunday’s series finale with the Pirates. To make room on the roster, reliever Fernando Salas was designated for assignment.
Smyly, 30, went 1-5 with an 8.42 ERA in 13 appearances (nine starts) this season with Texas. He was released on June 25 and signed a Minor League contract with the Brewers on July 1. He had a 4.97 ERA in three starts in Triple-A, striking out 18 and walking three in 12 2/3 innings. Smyly opted out of his contract with the Brewers on Thursday when they decided not to add him to the 25-man roster.
With Smyly’s start on Sunday, Vince Velasquez’s next turn has been moved to Wednesday against the Tigers, and manager Gabe Kapler said Nick Pivetta will move to the bullpen.
“We’ll see how [Pivetta] looks out of the bullpen, and we’ll see how Vince continues to develop in the rotation,” Kapler said. “We’ll see how Smyly looks, and we’ll make decisions as they come up and as they’re appropriate.”
Kapler opted not to move Velasquez, who made nine consecutive relief appearances in May-June, back to the bullpen. He assessed that stretch, in which Velasquez posted a 4.82 ERA, as “up and down.” Instead, Kapler opted to go with Pivetta, who has only come out the ‘pen once in the Majors, given Velasquez’s recent “strides in the rotation” and to see how Pivetta fares.
“What we don’t have is a real look on how Nick looks in the bullpen,” Kapler said. “So we are hurting a little bit for leverage right-handed arms right now in the ‘pen. And I’m not saying we’re prioritizing what happens in the bullpen, but just kind of all things considered -- looking at it from every angle -- it felt like the right decision for the Phillies and for both pitchers individually.”
Pivetta said being a starter is “who I am,” but he also holds the mentality that helping Philadelphia gain an edge in a tight National League table however he can is most important.
“[The] 25 men in this room -- I’m playing for them, not for myself or selfishly,” Pivetta said. “It’s for these guys, because we want to hold the World Series trophy at the end of the year, and I’m focused on helping these men in this room compete and win baseball games.”
The Phillies need help in the rotation, and they are hoping that Smyly can provide it. Entering Friday’s action, Philadelphia ranked 12th in the NL in ERA (4.62) and last in Fielding Independent Pitching (5.12). Smyly is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery in 2017, and his high ERA is due in part to a career-high home runs per nine innings mark (3.3) and command issues as well, with a 1.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- the lowest mark of his Major League tenure.